Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Composite Classes- What are they?

I know that some parents are often puzzled as to why some schools have composite classes while others do not. In 2010 as with 2009 we will respond to needs and create classes that best meet the needs of the children - this will continue to include a mix of composite and single year group classes.

At the vast majority of New Zealand schools a decision has been made to have composites. This decision is based on research about what makes a difference to, and benefits, students. 
The research for composite classes supports what many experienced teachers know.
In one study by a researcher called Pavan in 1992 it was found that students in composite settings did as well as, or outperformed, students in single graded classrooms. While that is positive perhaps the most significant findings come from the research of people like Pratt (1993) that identified that composite classrooms are “socially and psychologically healthy places.”  Students from composite settings outperformed students in single age settings on more than 75% of the affective measures tested and had fewer discipline issues. 

The findings showed that composites provided a natural setting in which older students had the opportunity to tutor younger students. This had positive outcomes for both the younger students and those who were the tutors. Others researchers French, Waas, Stright and Baker (1986), found that students in composites had had more opportunities to be leaders including many who may not have shown leadership in other settings. In other studies evidence showed that where students are in composite classes and are then cross-grouped for one or two subjects e.g. reading, there is an increase in their achievement.

So for Windsor our decision to have composites is based on evidence about what makes a positive difference for students. Academic findings have been mostly positive, some neutral but certainly nothing negative for students in composites. However there is clear evidence that composites do make a significant difference in and provide affective advantages for students i.e. they enhance self esteem, decrease behavioural problems, reduce the impact of labeling, encourage the formation of positive communities and lead to social and academic growth. The school’s commitment to grouping students according to social as well as academic needs has positive outcomes for all.  It is what we all know as parents and teachers - when a student feels positive about school they have more chance to be academically and socially successful. And in the end that is what we all want for all our students

For another view you could read

I am more than happy to talk to parents further about composite classes at any time.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Welcome to 2010!!!

Welcome to a year of a new decade, the new curriculum, and the risk of National Standards!
We have had a fantastic start to the year, a year where we will explore "Identity" through three themes:
1. "What's out there?"
2. "Why don't we all speak English?"
3. "What about me?"

The teachers will be involved in intensive writing professional development as we strive to achieve our goal of "excellence in numeracy and literacy" through "positive and challenging learning environments" and by utilizing "rich tasks and meaningful learning contexts".  The three concepts in italics are the three teaching and learning beliefs of the Windsor School learning community.

The year started with a hiss and a roar for all teachers as they attended an action packed two day conference in Christchurch on Wednesday and Thursday (27 & 28 January) last week. The "Teachers Matters" conference was packed with practical ideas as well as keynote speakers who challenged us to have 21st Century learning environments for 21st Century children. We were also challenged to let our children be active, creative and to use the arts, music and movement to engage them.

Our first short week flew by but the highlight of the first five days at school was a visit by the Governor General of New Zealand and his wife Lady Susan. They were so friendly and encouraging to our children and honored us by launching our PRIDE Challenges for 2010.
It was an privilege to be able to name The Governor General and Lady Susan as Honorary Recipients of our treasured Pounamu Pride Pendant.

2010 is about six main goals for us:

1.          Implement the NZ Curriculum

2.          Improve outcomes in writing (school wide PD)

3.          Review, clarify and streamline systems to ensure coherence school wide.

4.          Maintain targeted support for staff to ensure quality teaching and learning practice

5.          Comply with national standards

6.          Use data to inform future focus and school wide professional development

It is a challenge to have one of the most exciting curriculums of all time (and one that is much respected internationally) all set to go in 2010 and to have learning environments that celebrate the individual learner as a whole child with creative, artistic, scientific, physical and social skills and values and then have it all side swiped by a series of national standards. 

It is critical that we prepare our children for tomorrow not yesterday Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said "It is today we must create the world of the future!". We cannot and will not empower our learners through tests and standards (the way of the 1940's-1960's) It has not worked anywhere in the world- in fact it has been a dismal failure to children and for teachers. We will not help our children to have a sense of self worth and achievement through national standards. Remember "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts" (Albert Einstein). It is also fascinating that the move to National standards is at a time the economy is eliminating standardized jobs. If we want to improve outcomes for learners tests and standards will not do it.

We will have an amazing year regardless of this intrusion on self governing schools. We will comply with requirements should the Government not have a change of heart but we will comply without compromising all that our community have told us they believe in and want for their children over the last three years. We will enjoy the opportunity to show that through quality teaching practice and clarity of vision we can achieve excellent outcomes for our children. This has been the Windsor School tradition of the past and it will continue in 2010!

I am looking forward to a wonderful 2010 with highly motivated children dedicated and reflective staff, an engaged and supportive parent community and a visionary Board of Trustees.

Neill :)