Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae

Arihia Stirling discusses how data improves professional knowledge.

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Māori assessment needs

In Mangere there were a number of different levels of Māori teaching going on. You could be in a kura kaupapa or a wharekura. You could have been in one class with multiple levels of Māori. Perhaps you were a school that was embarking on setting up a Māori language programme, or you had several levels of immersion already happening. We also had children and teachers in a bilingual situation, but they were testing their children with mainstream tools. So it was really quite bizarre for us. No one had any idea what they should be assessing their children on.

The other difficulty we had was around the Ministry's view of the four levels of immersion from level 1 (81 to 100 per cent of the time you'd teach all curriculum in te reo Māori) down to level 4 (30 per cent or less of the time). We had seven schools doing seven different things. There were no tools anywhere that allowed us to assess Māori students across a wide range of school environments or immersion levels.

The schools in the Hui Rāpoi mō Te Reo Māori (AUSAD) (analysis and use of student achievement data) initiative decided to conduct an audit. We contracted Iria Whiu and Cath Rau who are well known in the Māori world for literacy and numeracy. They came to each school within Hui Rāpoi cluster to see where we were at, what our immersion levels were, what we thought we were doing okay, and anything else we thought we needed them to look at - basically to take a snapshot of where we were all at.

They interviewed teachers, students, senior management, parents, and board members. At the beginning of the project, we were looking for commonalities, but as we got into the audit we actually found we had very little in common because of the diverse immersion levels.

We worked directly with a coordinator who helped do the assessing and provided professional development to the programme. We were able to give our findings directly back to her and have that professional conversation. My staff became more proactive in what they wanted to do with the assessment information and shared that with the coordinator.

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Māori learners

Because AUSAD is a campus initiative, we're connected to it, but we're at a different level. We're still building the tools to allow us to assess our students. This project is about Māori educators developing programmes that are going to work successfully for Māori learners. We are making sure that our professional knowledge of our teachers is succinct and important to the strategies we're putting in place for the students, and that kids can actually work in other ways.

Our data will often say, "Something's happening in this class. What's going on here?" And then you start eliminating the things that could be the reason why they're actually better or worse. We've often found that it's teacher strategies in class and the way that they're involving students. So that's been really good for us.

When we come together as an area cluster, we share those things. The Māori schools have a camaraderie we never had before. It's really strengthened the area. You know, we often used to learn and teach in isolation. A Māori teacher was this person in this classroom round the back or down the road. We now have a network of teachers who share their knowledge and eliminate the prejudice of what level of immersion you teach at.

The discussions we have with our other colleagues on campus help us understand where our students need to be further up, as we start integrating our programmes. What's neat is that we're finding out that the Māori learner doesn't have to be in immersion classes to learn in this fashion. It doesn't matter what level of immersion you're teaching at, it's the ability to deliver information to the children so they can receive it successfully.

That's been a huge learning for all of us and it's been communicated back into the mainstream practices within the cluster in AUSAD, because they've been able to change things that possibly they wouldn't have looked at from that point of view.

So that's going to be taken out to Māori mainstream learners. It can be taken out to Pacific Island children too, and I'm finding those connections with our Pacific Island clusters within AUSAD. Some of the stuff we've done, they don't need to do because they're learning from us. We have a lot of commonalities in the stuff we have to do, especially about information and collecting data.

Our people are still very precious. They still think that information about them belongs to them, and that's true. Even with an approach about how we disseminate the information about the data we collect, we still go back to our Māori community and get their okay for that. And we're finding that the Pacific Island communities are asking the same thing. So it's just an understanding of your cultural background and the sensitivities, especially to do with information. We don't actually work against what the parents and communities want.

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Share knowledge

We decided to be a pilot school using a testing tool for running records in Māori. We've been in that pilot scheme for two years now. The other research focus was a numeracy project. It was born out of the fact that the numeracy projects that were available were either translated programmes or they came from other countries. What we liked about the two programmes was that they were developed by educators who understood the psyche of Māori learners.

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Tapuwae enjoys benefits of being part of this campus. Some of the things that are really neat are that we are able to share resources; we are able to share learnings; we are able to share professional collegial support. And it's unique that we have this environment within a mainstream setting. One thing that I like is that we're still able to be a Māori school within our community.

We're seen as a Tainui school. That's really important too. We meet with the Tainui elders of this area once a month. We also have whanau hui, which 90-120 parents come to once a month. And our Tainui elders come as well. So we try to walk two roads quite comfortably, if you can understand what I'm saying, in terms of the mainstream line and also the Māori school line.

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Inspiring results

The data we have in terms of reading levels for Māori children in mainstream classes tells us that they would normally move one reading level a year - that's possibly an average student. After implementing this reading programme, we've found our children, in some instances, are moving one reading level a term, which is quite outstanding and it's purely through practice of the Māori learning assessment style we have.

We're also finding that our children, once they move out of the immersion setting into a mainstream setting, are performing at or above the national average. This is fantastic for us, as nationally most mainstream Māori children, with all those years with English as a language, are not.

When we did the audit of the school a couple of years ago, we were quite worried about the delivery of numeracy in the junior school (years 1 to 3). So we asked the audit team to make that a focus area. When we got the audit details back, we found that one of our beginning teachers was doing a really outstanding job without having anything to really rely on at that time.

The auditor asked me how long she had been teaching. And I said, "Well, actually, she's a first year teacher." She's been here three years now and she's really quite inspired by maths and is running and helping supervise the numeracy programme in that junior part of the school. She has outstanding results and developed really interesting strategies for little kiddies at that level. So that's been inspiring for us as a school, and particularly as a new teacher.

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Holistic learning

I think that for us it's about having an understanding in our school that learning doesn't happen in just six hours, and learning has to happen at home and flood back to the school and vice versa. What we've been doing is holding reading programmes with our parents to teach them how to read to their children, and that's been really fruitful for our kids.

I think that having a positive Māori learning environment generally within our school has actually empowered quite a few parents who are possibly in their early or mid thirties. Parents see their children are learning in a holistic environment where it's not just about the books and pens; it's about the wholeness of the student. We've found that more of our parents are actually going back into education, leaving their blue-collar jobs, and taking the plunge. That's been quite significant in the last two years.

It's been really neat seeing them come up and say, "Hey, I'm actually going back to university." That's huge for this community and it's neat to see, and we look forward to seeing a bit more of it, too.

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Enjoy the journey

We're a part of a group of schools in Mangere that just happen to have immersion settings. We're a part of a whole in terms of a region with Tainui schools. We enjoy the relationship with Tainui and, more importantly, we enjoy being a part of moving forward with this campus.

Oh, that's been the beauty of it, being on this journey. Because when we first started we were never sure where we were going to end up. But where we are at the moment is a really, really nice place to be. We have great professional relationships with our schools next door. You know, most areas don't enjoy that. You're really territorial. And we're actually trying to break down those barriers and boundaries for those kids.

In this campus we spend a lot of time collecting data to inform what sort of practices we need, to improve professional knowledge and to improve our teaching and learning for the benefit of our students. What is great about the campus is that everyone else is doing it and that we're on this journey together.

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