Thursday, July 9, 2020

Scratch and the Maths challenge

My daughters do a maths challenge each week at their primary school.  I didn't pay much attention to it until my youngest was worried that she wasn't improving.  My usual criticism of these weekly quizzes is nothing is done with the information and students keep getting the same questions wrong.  In many cases, the reasons why they are getting questions wrong is never investigated.

So I had a look at the challenge and it focused on addition, subtraction and times tables.

I wrote a little application in scratch to help develop some basic numeracy and help identify where issues were occurring. I added in extra steps to assist where we found issues and practice was needed (with instant feedback).

It covers:
a) learning multiples
b) adding/subtracting to and beyond 10
c) tables (using commutative property and division)

You should be able to see it below.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Assigning classes to teachers and Performance Development/Management

One of the roles of a HOLA is to assign classes to teachers each year.  Constraints limit putting the strongest teacher with the optimum class with optimum defined as the class with the highest potential for learning.


Constraint 1: The timetable
The timetable often limits which teacher can be placed in which class (eg. teaching the same course to two different classes).  This is common where ATAR and General classes are run at the same time to assist with students moving courses midstream or where streaming is done, allowing student to move stream without disrupting other subjects.

Constraint 2: Experience vs capacity building
An experienced teacher understands the scope and sequence of a course of work, has strategies evolved and resources collected.  An inexperienced teacher requires opportunities to develop their skills.  Some staff have some specific skills (Specialist, Foundations, low ability, extension, leadership) that make it desirable to put them in a specific course.

Constraint 3: Part time staff
Some staff are hired on the basis of being part time to fulfil a specific need or have a circumstance that requires a part time approach.

Constraint 4: Capability / Capacity
In some cases, staff have limitations that result in being unable to take certain courses.  Similar to constraint 2, some staff lack the confidence to attempt ATAR courses, Year 12 courses, lower school courses, classroom management limitations.  Teachers may be unable to dedicate time required to support upper school classes or to develop capacity to deliver upper school classes.  

Constraint 5: Personality/Cultural conflict
As much as I would like to say Professionalism should overcome this constraint, this is not always the case.  With enough flexibility, interaction can be minimised to promote a functioning department whilst performance development works through the underlying issues.

Constraint 6: Stage in career
Teachers have different requirements at different stages in their career.  The impact of supporting their own children, generational gaps towards retirement, graduate opportunities, caring for parents, seeking promotional opportunities, seeking higher learning will impact on how a teacher is deployed.



Once the constraints are considered, the approach used to assign classes needs to be considered to maximise learning and staff morale.  I have primarily used three approaches or combinations of these approaches.

A: Best teacher for each class (seniority model).  
Capacity building occurs as staff vacate desirable courses.  Staff are allowed to remain in courses for significant periods to develop a thorough knowledge of each course. 

Advantage: Optimal learning for students (most capable teacher aligned with suitable classes). Fewer parental issues regarding teachers developing capacity. Mid tier classes may get higher levels of support (as teachers develop capacity/demonstrate a teacher's suitability for more desirable classes). 
Disadvantage: Can become stale, transition can be difficult in case of promotion, entitlement issues, sickness, etc.  Some teachers will have a set of less desirable/higher behavioural requirement courses causing morale issues/higher turnover of new staff.

B: Balanced approach. 
Cycling teachers through courses developing capacity across the entire teaching group. 

Advantage: Flexibility in case of changes required due to turnover.  Higher morale as teachers develop their capacity in a transparent manner. 
Disadvantage: Ongoing suboptimal learning whilst teachers develop capacity. Higher turnover as teachers seek positions with lower levels of change required.

C: Allocating points to courses.  
Each course is allocated a point in a distribution.  The average of a teachers subjects is allocated with an aim for teachers to have a combination of challenging behavioural classes and challenging academic classes. 

Advantages: Transparent, seen as a fair approach for teachers. 
Disadvantage: Sub-optimal learning, teachers focus on desirable classes and sacrifice attention to less desirable classes (eg. upper school vs lower school classes, academic vs less academic classes etc).

D: Cycling teachers with students.  
More common in pastoral care situations.  Can be combined with A/B/C.

Advantage:  Students become familiar with teaching pedagogy and teacher becomes familiar with needs of students.
Disadvantage: Conflicts may be carried over extended periods.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Why the Classpad was a monumental mistake.

When the Classpad replaced graphics calculators, the thought was that it would drive a new level of applied mathematics, removing from students the repetitive parts of problem solving, widen access to higher mathematics and allow students access to deeper learning.

It failed.  It just produced a level of IT complexity irrelevant to mathematics and little further development of mathematical thinking.  The proposed gains in graphing did not materialise (due to the size of screen and accuracy of the LCD) and the CAS element was nifty but questions it could be used for were often implemented in non calculator sections anyway and calculator section questions often have to avoid questions that would otherwise demonstrate understanding but can be answered without knowledge by the calculator. In many cases it caused issues for examiners to ensure that problems were not trivialised by button pushing.  

The level of skill with the calculator by each teacher has the potential to differentiate between students in classes and schools more so than their individual mathematical aptitude (or teacher knowledge), particularly in Applications and Methods as teachers in rotations develop their skill with the device.  It was never the aim to have the calculator impact on the teaching quality received by students, but as each new teacher is introduced into a course, it has increasing potential to do so, more than without CAS.

I don't  think it has aided algebraic ability either, with students not always receiving the algebraic grounding developed through solving complex equations.  CAS has the potential to trivialise this process, and can limit the development of fluency, particularly where texts do not state where it should be used (or where students use CAS where they shouldn't).  The counterargument is that this is dependent on the skill of the teacher, and I don't discount this, but it is just another factor that impacts on teaching with limited, if any, benefit.  It certainly hasn't given access to maths at a higher level than ever before, one only has to look at declining engagement numbers and the relative farce that is the current applications course. This though, is just my opinion.

It is now predicted to cost $270 per calculator, which tied to texts, revision seminars and revision books typically used by students can top the booklist for Methods and Spec to be over $500.  It's an equity issue I raised with Rom Cirillo (who I respect greatly), who indicated it was a factor that had to be controlled by HOLA's, something that we all have to keep in mind, especially in low SES schools.  Increasingly, where Maths was once accessible by all, the combination of the increase in literacy requirements (through an increase in statistics) and CAS calculator usage (leading to more "applied" literacy type questions) change our subject to a further limited demographic. 

This is causing some students to reconsider doing higher mathematics, or worse still attempting to do it without the calculator, particularly if it is lost or broken (and not covered by the one year warranty).

I've just had an email from Abacus that they are getting a 15% increase in cost next year.  At $270+ it is getting pretty close to the cost of a reasonable tablet, with a larger screen, multi-purpose, similar software and enough battery life to get through a day.  Sure, standardising it for exams would be difficult but considering it as a thought exercise it makes you think.

Universities and other learning areas never took the CAS calculator into their courses making it irrelevant post schooling.

If it is costly, is not providing the benefits suggested in senior school classes and has little relevance post schooling, would we not be better dropping it as a failed experiment.  I remember reading a post from Charlie Watson (Calculator guru and all round nice guy) proposing to discontinue it.  I do agree and would like to see a pure math subject returned where the skill in developing mathematical knowledge through a simple text and a teacher was the primary objective rather than driving the use of a mediocre device with limited applications beyond high school.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Course Counselling and Mathematics

The current Mathematics course is not my favourite of the past few editions.  

It has four main courses: 
- Foundations (for students that require basic numeracy)
- Essentials (for students to develop their basic numeracy to a TAFE level)
- Applications (for students to develop skills for higher learning)
- Methods (for students seeking maths skills for tertiary math/science courses)

and a fifth course Specialist that can be taken in addition to Methods (for those seeking tom complete Engineering or Mathematics courses at University without additional courses to bridge to the level required)

Unfortunately WACE and University entrance is the main reason why the majority of students take Mathematics courses.  I would suggest that seeing Mathematics as only a pathway to higher learning or graduating high school is a very limited view as it does not consider the requirements after entry to a learning institution and for lifelong learning.  

The difficulty gap between Applications and Methods is large, much larger than in the previous iteration of ATAR courses (2AB/2CD 2CD/3AB 3AB/3D) as the option to do 2CD/3AB no longer exists.  The mean for Applications is 55, which results in half of the students sitting the course not having scores that is conducive to a university entrance score.   Given this is the case, half of these students end in TAFE or using other courses to build their ATAR score.  Getting a 1st or 2nd ATAR score with Applications is unlikely (and when done, tends to be students that drop in from Methods in Year 12.  Given this, as a counsellor, if I was unsure about whether a student should do Methods in Year 11, I would counsel them into Methods and parachute them into Applications if they were unsuccessful in Year 12).  This makes choosing Applications a problematic choice for many students (why do it if there are other subjects that I am more likely to gain a score with).

The mean for Methods is 65 with a SD of 12, with 3/4 of students getting a scaled score above 55, indicating that this is a course to build a reasonable ATAR score around. If students have the ability to do Methods, they should.  If they wish to do a Science based course, this is the only option to gain the thinking and capacity required for Science courses.  They may not use all of the Maths, but they will gain skills invaluable for learning new content beyond their current understanding.

The difficulty of Specialist has reduced its importance over time for maximising ATAR scores as the effort required is often better put to ATAR English, Chemistry, History or Physics and is only done by those with a passion for Mathematics.

My frustration with the current counselling thinking is that because many university courses do not have Mathematics pre-requisites, that it is better to do Applications (and pass) than Methods and potentially fail or that if students have C's or D's in Maths they should bypass Essentials or Applications and do other subjects instead.

To this I would simply say - Mathematics is about lifelong learning.  It is more than just entry to tertiary education.  There is no point gaining entry to higher learning, to only fail (or have to do bridging courses without the assistance available in school when you get there).

Doing Specialist puts you in an elite group of people able to do something that the majority of people cannot do.  Putting yourself in an elite is never a bad thing if you have the ability to do so.
Doing Methods takes effort, but is an opportunity to stretch yourself and truly learn how to learn. It will help a student get to university in the majority of cases if they have shown the aptitude in previous years.  If you complete Methods, you are likely to be a competent Mathematics student at university.
Doing Applications will develop your mathematical skills to a level that will mean in the majority of cases you will not need to learn more mathematics in later life but is unlikely (in many cases) to assist with University entry.
Doing Essentials will help you reach the next level in Mathematical understanding.  You will better understand the world in which you live from a basic numeracy, financial, measurement and statistical perspective.
Doing Foundations will raise your basic understanding of numeracy to allow you to function in society.

From a school point of view Mathematics provides opportunities in senior school to exploit 4 years of learning in lower school and has a course for any student - more so than any other subject (I'm looking at you English and HASS!!).  It is cheaper, more flexible and easier to run a full Mathematics course than 5 elective subjects trying to cater to various needs and ability levels under-subscribed.  A lesson learned by a few schools I dare to think.  Not making Mathematics compulsory results in significant bloat in school offerings.

To get students to choose Mathematics willingly requires many years of work.  Students must have an understanding that they will be supported, will pass and that there is an option tailored and available for them.  This is especially true for students with Ds and Es in lower school.  For the first time, in Senior school these students have courses that are designed for them (Foundations and Essentials) and there is a clear path to find success.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Relooking at education and the society in which we live.

Today we have this odd situation.

We are weighing up the needs of a child to be educated vs their wellness.

The proposition is that kids are better off in the home with a parent than in fulltime schooling.

Many years ago I stated that the measure of a good government is the improvement of the standard of living.  To achieve a higher standard of living families have forgone their responsibility of educating their children and left it to  the education system and digital technologies such as TV and internet.

Over time, rather than increasing the standard of living, it has become the norm for both parents to work and parents live just to pay mortgages and buy food.  They are not getting ahead, they are getting by.  The ability of hard graft getting your family ahead has seriously diminished, the ability of working hard alone to pay off your house is apparently gone with the rise of the information age and automation.

We now have widespread unemployment.

We need a reset.  Parents do not have to work.  Banks and miners do not need to make large profits.  Superannuation benefits are now eradicated with the failure of the stockmarket.  The political left has the opportunity to propose something bold.

We have again become an isolated island that still has the ability to feed itself, produce most goods and become a net exporter.  At the moment families are together and exercising supported by a government that has supported their wellbeing first and the economy second (albeit buoyed by the knowledge that widespread death will result in poor polling and election losses).

Take a sec to think about resetting the economy around the nuclear family.  It doesn't matter if mum or dad works - but let's have one parent responsible for raising our children and driving the family home.  In more affluent areas this is more common as it is easy to recognise the pressures families are put under to raise children whilst both parents work.

Children, well cared for, have fewer mental health issues, are better supported in education, are more healthy, can do more exercise.  Our future is brighter when a proportion of our kids aren't narcissistic and apathetic blobs.  Many can't see a future that is beyond being cared for into their 30's.  With half the workforce at home doing a job that needs doing, these children would be needed in the workforce.

Let's have a think tank actually support an idea that is currently being modelled during the Covid 19 cleanup that might work for the benefit of all.

Would that parent supported by a school be able to educate a child for part or all of the week and be part of the education solution too?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Collegiality, Resource Sharing and Collaboration.


It was posed to me that by not insisting that staff share resources that I was not effectively leading my team.

I refuse to insist that anyone share anything other than what was mutually agreed to at the start of the year.  In this instance, staff had been allocated courses of work prior to my arrival that they were responsible for and had to provide all assessments and programmes for those courses.  Given that the distribution was initially uneven due to staff turnover, I evened it out and gained agreement that the assessment allocation method would change in 2020.

My argument was (and is) that if someone else sets the assessment for my class, it is unlikely to test what I have taught with the same emphasis. My class may have strengths based on prior learning, gender bias, teacher competency, ability composition... that would make it unfair to compare them using a test entirely constructed by another teacher (for the entire year). It diminishes the responsibility of the teacher teaching the class that is not in charge of the course.  To my mind, all teachers need to be in charge of their own classroom!

The argument against was that it was difficult to rank students if they did not do exactly the same coursework and exactly the same assessment - that courses should be kept in lockstep.  I was, and am worried that by keeping classes in lockstep through strict streaming in lower school, students that would be able to complete work by the end of the year, would become disheartened if they continued to fail by being presented with assessments that they could not do.  I understand that there are legitimate reasons why this is required in senior school.

What then happened was interesting.  Staff that did not wish to share additional resources they developed, now stopped sharing with some staff.  This is where my leadership differs from my predecessor as I refused to insist that they share resources.  Forcing someone to do something (like resource sharing) causes resentment and de-motivation to develop resources if they are forced to share.  It stifles innovation.  What I prefer to see is friendly competition, collaboration and collegiality. When I didn't insist that they share their resources it caused significant concern.  Anyone that did not make reasonable effort to establish a collegiate, collaborative relationship, would have to do the work themselves.  At the heart of every teaching contract, is the understanding that you are responsible for teaching and resourcing your classroom, I struggle with the notion that creating resources for your class is a workload issue.

Definitions of resource sharing, collaboration, collegiality and professionalism are listed below:

- Resource sharing is giving a portion of (something) to another or others.
- Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce something.
- Collegiality by definition is companionship and cooperation between colleagues who share responsibility.
- Professionalism is the ability to learn, conscientiousness, interpersonal skills, adaptability and integrity.

If  staff members are in conflict, resource sharing could be forced (and resented thus restricting future resource development), Collaboration and Collegiality are less likely to occur (as staff are being managed rather than developing collegiate relationships) and their Professionalism may be compromised. I imagine this is why the first two levels of AITSL standards relate to personal competency and the latter two to collegiality and community involvement.

Certain actions are likely to prevent collaboration and collegiality:

1. Criticising the work of others.
2. Questioning others competency.
3. Refusing to contribute.
4. Contributing substandard resources.
5. Avoiding opportunities to contribute.
6. Being unable to keep to agreed timelines.
7. Negotiating to do less work.
8. Complaining that workload is too great to contribute.
9. Being prickly, rude or unreasonable.
10. Expecting others to do your work.
11. Resisting accountability

I think that at the heart of Collegiality and Collaboration is mutual respect and being nice - not a patsy or pushover, but following the golden rule - don't do anything that you wouldn't want done to you. At the heart of professionalism is competence and a growth mindset that says there is always something to learn (and learn from others even if you privately question their practices).  If someone is not wanting to share with you, why and how can I turn it around.  This type of thinking is freeing as it removes resentment (it's not fair that I have to work harder) and gives you back control of the situation.  There are actions you can make to develop trust and encourage others to work with you (and not have a feeling of working "for" you).

There cannot be an expectation that everyone is able to collaborate effectively and be collegial with everyone on a team all of the time (it cannot be insisted for under professionalism's interpersonal skills as people interact unreasonably regularly for many reasons outside of the other party's control, everyone is at a different stage of their learning journey).  The larger the team, the less likely a fully collegiate environment will occur.  A little bit of friendly rivalry also has the potential to drive progression in a team.  Creating an environment where challenging beliefs is ok and requires more than just saying the right things - takes time and requires modelling of the skills required.

Next steps are setting the groundwork for collaboration in 2021, creating the most even playing field that I can and hopefully, the further development of collaboration and collegiality within the team.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Remediation of NCCD students in Mathematics

Students marked at risk on the NCCD list are the forgotten students in Mathematics today.  Typically students on the NCCD list have an imputed disability and due to this disability/risk factors are more than 2 years behind other students in a class.  Often the remediation required is assumed to be resourced under differentiation by a teacher within a classroom.

A good rule of thumb is if a student is beyond two years above, or two years below the syllabus, a typical teacher utilising DOTT and planning time effectively will find it difficult to cater to the needs of these students without additional assistance, resourcing and planning.

Where there are a group of four or more in one class (typical of low ability streaming) this results in students not progressing their mathematical understanding when in Years 7-10. This is frustrating for parents and students and cause for concern (and is a workload issue) for teaching staff.  It is also easily measurable using NAPLAN7 to NAPLAN9 progress data.

To properly address this issue requires analysis of assistance, resourcing and planning available.

ISSUE

1. Assistance
  • Identifying the help required is a difficult proposition as students on the NCCD list may have undiagnosed IDs, mental health, DV, FASD, family dsyfunction and typically requires a multi-disciplinary approach. 
  • Providing "just in time" intervention to students when in the proximal zone of development requires teachers to understand the needs of NCCD students who are typically not in the proficiency area of high school teachers and support staff.  
  • Teachers are committed to teach the year level curriculum from the syllabus to the majority of students in the class. 
  • Many of these students attract no extra funding from external agencies as the disability is either not covered, require an extended period of observation and/or are too expensive for parents to receive a formal diagnosis.
2. Resourcing
  • To teach year levels beyond a year either side of the year level achievement standard will reduce the effectiveness of teaching the majority of students in the class.  Where more than two groups of students are in a class that require instruction outside the year level achievement standard, students will not get optimal instruction from their teacher alone.
  • Typically resources available at developmental level are not developmentally appropriate (when teaching Year 4 material, resources are pitched at 8-9 years olds, is not appropriate for  13-15 year olds).
  • Assistance by support staff is typically unavailable through current FTE model which requires an IQ and EQ diagnosis.
3. Planning
  • For every student in the class that requires teaching from another year level in the syllabus, requires the equivalent of an extra class of planning to be completed by the teacher.
  • Additional planning time is not available even if content could be delivered with sufficient preparation.

SOLUTION

1. Make it someone's problem
  • Identify someone with a passion for the problem, a champion that can relate to these students and has a rapport with students services, parents of students and HOLAs of each learning area.  This person becomes responsible for driving solutions and becomes the Learning Support Coordinator (LSC).
  • Acceptance of a student into a remediation group must be linked to resourcing being available.
  • Make the solution a team effort with shared responsibility by support staff and Learning Areas.
2. Communicate with parents and create a shared understanding
  • Create IEP / Documented plans
  • Develop MHRMPs/RMPs/BMPs
  • Have meetings with parents and create measurable attendance/behaviour/academic goals for each term
3. Adequately resource the programme
  • Resource the programme based on number of support groups required (eg. where indicated by class composition) not by resourcing allocated through support staff FTE.
  • Develop resources that can be reused with minimal customisation.
4. Measure the results
  • Research project / Masters or PHD level support
  • SEN reporting
  • Standardised testing (PAT Testing/ NAPLAN)
  • Attendance
  • Behaviour
5. Keep expectations reasonable
  • Expectations set in IEPs must be achievable and modified when found to exceed ability of intervention programme to achieve.
6. Celebrate wins / analyse challenges
  • Make time to analyse progress of intervention programme.
7. Communicate with stakeholders regularly
  • Connect
  • SEN reporting



Thursday, April 2, 2020

Adjusting to online delivery

Delivering online is an interesting beast.  For a short period most teachers can deliver content that students can do based on what they have taught thus far.  A logical extension from their existing teaching.

The first hurdle comes with a new topic.  Typically a student cannot learn independently, especially in the lower years.  Where a student is challenged by content, and is not fully engaged, presenting a student with a page of explanation is not going to work.  Couple that with a parent that has limited teaching knowledge and patience is a recipe for a poor learning experience.

Thinking back to my own experiences with online learning, presentation of materials and motivation are key components.

I have challenged my team to think beyond traditional lesson design.  Some have put a little joke in their lesson to keep students coming back. Others are preparing short videos to continue the connection they have with kids, others are looking at formative assessment to provide feedback.

Some of the ideas thus far that we could look at:

- Contact if the student has not logged in regularly to learning platforms
- Collaboration vs resource sharing
- Feedback on successful/not successful practices
- Use of different learning platforms (Connect, Mathspace, Mathsonline, oneNote, ActiveInspire, youTube, Khan Academy)
- Wider and tailored use of texts
- Video lessons (screen capture, face capture only and whiteboarding)
- Encouragement to use discussion forums to share ideas
- Motivational elements (how, why, hook, timing)
- Sharing resources between teachers
- Online Quizzes
- Booklets of work
- Direct and ongoing interactive parent contact
- Student wellbeing and engagement
- How to present ideas in a consumable manner by families consistent with other learning areas
- Sustainability of practices
- Software/hardware required for delivery
- Copyright issues
- Paper delivery where internet is not available

This is only the beginning.  Ensuring that the correct tools are used for the right kids is the major challenge and engaging them with the new learning environment.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Teaching staff and the future

Today may be looked back as a turning point in education.  Is this the disruption in education that has been predicted for some time? Can we take the predictable and repeatable process of educating students and automate the repetitive parts without significantly reducing outcomes and with lower costs?  Can education be made more efficient than 1 teacher to 30 students with high capital outlays and investment in property?

Is this the day when the model for educating students changes?

If changes in the economy return us to a nuclear family structure with a maximum of one parent working with the other caring for children or unemployed could this lead to a change in the teaching model?

For instance, if a distance model becomes the norm for many students and parents take a significant role in education of children and teacher re-training occurs on a large scale, do we need schools open 5 days per week?

Imagine if things changed.  A 60,000 teacher strong workforce instantly becomes the strongest 2000  delivering online and the rest part time if at all.   Online everything becomes the norm.

This has never been able to be done as technology was not there..

It's an interesting thought.

Are teachers in a privileged position with salaries and doing a job that could be done by a relative few?  Is there a legitimate case for laying off teachers to preserve capital for the upcoming recession/depression? Some are seeing this period as an extended holiday or a "work" at home.  I'd suggest that everyone get into doing something productive such that we can say "I'm needed for my kids to make parents very happy that they have a great teacher" - otherwise these sorts of questions might be raised.  There will be discontent over the have's and have not's.


Yesterday I presented to staff and posed the questions -

What is online learning and what does it look like?
What is the difference between supplementing learning online and delivering teaching online?

For some, there was no difference, for others this caused a critical change in thinking.

The flipped classroom was the first point where teaching was effectively done and supported offline in schools and is closest to an offline delivery model that we have for parents.  Teachers "instruct" online, students complete work offline and self mark or submit work online, teachers are available to answer questions online as they occur.  The intervention done by teachers observing work being completed is not done easily or neatly and would be an area managed by parents.

Teachers might be able to identify things to look out for to parents to increase intervention. Would this be enough to change education from a 60000 strong workforce "rolls royce" solution to a 2000 "it'll do" model where very similar results are found after 12 years of schooling (do the possible efficiency gains possible offline for students of high ability offset the need for 12 years of schooling  and would it be less for those that would be diverted into other forms of education such as apprenticeships and the like).

To perform in society, do children need to attend in person school for 12 years?

Heresy.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Closing Schools and the effect on Year 12 students.

According to the media it sounds like schools are closing next week.  The big question is what will happen to Year 12 students?  Creating a statistically sound ranking is going to prove problematic for TISC.  It's time to think about the what next..

External WACE exams and ATAR ranking are not about content, knowledge and skills but about identifying potential through evidence that can be used to identify students that will succeed in higher education.  It is far from perfect, but it is the fairest and most manageable idea devised thus far.  The evidence for this is simple - pre-requisites in university courses are rare, they accept students on ATAR scores.  I understand the logic that students will have to do bridging courses once there - but the counter argument is that once there they will be able to do the work based on their ATAR score.

I imagine SCSA could do a few things depending on whether schools are out for 4 weeks, a term, two terms or the rest of the year.

1. Create an exam based on Year 11 course content and run it as the external exam.  A little time at the end of the year to revise content and advise kids early enough and this would work.

2. Create an external exam based on Unit 1 and examine that only relying on the end of the year to finish Unit 1.

3. Expect kids continue their work in isolation through distance education and run examinations of Unit 1 and 2 as per any other year.

4. Reboot 2020 as 2021 and create a mandatory year 13 for all years currently in school(increasing staffing for kindy/pre-primary and rooming as that year group passed through school years) requiring an extra year of workforce for the next 12 years in schooling (dealing with more 18-19 year olds in high school) and a dead year passing through TAFE/universities for the next four/five years.

Kids in my class are becoming able to use a flipped classroom effectively (where instruction is given through Connect), but it does not work for all students and some require face-to-face intervention to be successful and motivated.

I do hope we are sensible about this.   To use 3. (the most likely outcome even if schools are closed for an extended period) has vast inequity particularly for low SES students that are not disciplined, do not have the resources available or are not supported enough for distance education. We should not underestimate the value of peer based instruction within ATAR classes / the power of students at a similar level working together to solve a problem (rather than passive instruction only).

For Certificate students, I am not sure how they will complete any onsite parts of their Certificates -   Childcare, Building and Construction, Sport and Rec when industry are shut down as all are courses with significant practical requirements.

For General courses with practical components, particularly those with significant infrastructure requirements (D&T, Home Ec, Engineering etc), will have an impact on students WACE, students through no fault of their own may be unable to complete courses.

For ATAR, General and Certificate courses, SCSA may need to consider reducing WACE requirements for 2020 (fewer units required) and award units based on partial or projected completion of Unit 1.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The perils of streaming

I managed the streams at my previous school for a number of years and significantly reduced the amount of issues raised by teachers.  It was a difficult process to manage as the stream was one size fits all - move in maths, you move in all the MESH subjects.  To get around this required three of the four to suggest a stream or one humanities/english, one math/science to be moved.  At it's best, students worked with teachers over at least a term to get promotion.  By the end the move was valued and deserved.  Streaming was done twice a year for all students and reviewed each term for students that had entered the school during the last semester.

The problem with streaming is that it lacks a research basis for putting it in place in an average school.  In a school where the level of teaching required is 4+ years within the same room, there is a basis for it as it is difficult to teach students that far apart.  In my new school, after removing a small number that require IEPs, it appears that the remaining students fall within a 2-3 year syllabus bracket in each class.

I am struggling with the existing streaming model I am faced with as I come to grips with the benefits and deficits of it.  Three streams have been devised with top, middle, bottom courses.  Top, middle, bottom have two classes in each, also streamed (creating six fully streamed classes) - the best students in each stream in one class and the remainder in another.  The streams appear to align with NAPLAN (with some obvious exceptions being rectified) indicating that for the most part they have been ranked correctly. One teacher in each stream sets all assessments.  All assessments are written from scratch in each stream.

Issues appear when the performance of the streams are analysed.  Out of the 60 students in the top stream, a significant proportion of the second class are achieving less than 50%.  The gap between the mean score in the top class and the second class in each stream increases significantly as students progress through school. My top class outperformed the second top class and were highly motivated and enthused, but students in the second class universally wanted to be in my class (not theirs) but were unlikely to be promoted as they significantly performed lower and demonstrated lower levels of motivation.

Having a highly motivated class may be seen as positive in isolation, but having half the students undermotivated in the top course made me question current practices.  In each stream, one teacher sets the assessment with little communication with the other teacher.  This leads to the second class being given an assessment that is pitched at the wrong level for the second class resulting in lower levels of engagement.  Thus high performing (top pathway but in the second class) students are left believing that they are not solid high performing mathematics students.  It also has the potential for friction between the two teachers (at the level of the assessment set and/or the students of the underperforming second class (blaming the teacher for the underperformance).

As a trial I rebalanced the year 8 top stream to have two classes of equal ability and challenged each class to raise their performance.  To date I have seen little difference in student performance in my rebalanced (lower ability than before the rebalancing) class and hope to see the other class rise to the challenge. We now have two classes of equal ability, we should achieve median test scores approximately the same. With both classes being exposed to high performing students they should have an increased potential for success.

The second issue that I see is that streaming in Year 7 occurs too early.  This separates kids into haves and have nots very early in their high school career, prior to them engaging with specialist mathematics teachers and gaining a love of mathematics.  The issues with this is seen with undermotivated middle tier classes in later years and students that struggle to fully engage with Mathematics as they lack proper role models, particularly boys who generally develop later than girls.

A quick analysis today indicated that there is a clear difference in teaching with respect to results in Year 7, as four classes with similar composition (same NAPLAN mean) with the most at risk removed into a remediation class, performed significantly differently on the same assessment, with one class clearly outperforming the others.  There are some factors that can be attributed to class differences (the spread of ability was different in two of the classes), but if the differences in programme and pedagogy can be identified then improvement can be made in subsequent delivery across all classes.  This was also after one assessment, this may be a strength of one teacher in one topic and may vary in future topics or in students adjusting to a different style of teaching.

The third issue identified is with the performance of upper school classes - there is always room for improvement.  Although small Methods (10-15 students) and Specialist (5-7 students) classes consistently produce 55+ course scores, it is not as consistent in Applications courses (30-40 students) with between one third and one half of students achieving a 55+ course score. In a school of so many students in Band 9 and 10 students in NAPLAN9,  there appears potential for higher numbers of Methods students out of the 60 students typically in the top stream.  To produce a higher number of Methods students requires aligning the Year 10 course with Methods rather than the current programme of 10/10A aligned to the Specialist course and only producing 6-7 Specialist students.  We need to make Mathematics a subject of choice for students at the school and fall in their top two subjects ranked by ATAR course score.  This means the Year 10 teacher would need to extend potential Specialist students through differentiation in class (rather than through the general programme) and assess predominantly on the year 10 (not 10A) curriculum.  If the current course (with a 10A focus) produced more students in Methods with the current programme, it could be seen as workable, but they are not choosing Methods, underperforming in it with many withdrawing from the course in Semester 1, Year 11 (thanks SCSA for an overloaded Semester 1 course) - typically seeing the Applications course as an easier path through Mathematics; resulting in few students using Mathematics as their first or second score in Year 12.

The fourth issue comes with creating unteachable classes.  If students that are disengaged are lumped into a class together, there is the risk of creating a difficult class to engage. Rather than working with difficult students, the first option appears to be to use the streaming process to remove them to another class - reasoning that needs to be constantly challenged.  My prediction when setting up streams at my prior school was that middle classes would prove the most difficult to teach never eventuated there, but I can see it at the new school.  The middle classes appear to lack a clear pathway to keep them motivated, lack positive role models and this may be a good area to explore for further improvement.

Food for thought going forward.  Now to get teachers to see the streams holistically and derive positive changes that can be measured for the benefit of students.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Week 7: Covid19 and teaching.

A lot has been spoken about the effects of Covid19 and students, but there is another possible impact.  The ageing workforce in teaching has led to many teachers working into their 60-70s and now risk exposure to Covid19, more so than in other industries that have gone into lockdown.  For some this is life threatening.  The question that can't be answered is for whom it is life threatening and who will be ok.

As with health professionals, teachers have been asked to go beyond social distancing (as this is not possible in a larger school or even in a classroom).  The main difference to health professionals is that teachers do not have protective equipment or basic expectations of hygiene that can be expected in a hospital environment.  At present we are not exposed to sick children, but it appears we will be soon, we are not doctors and will not easily be able to identify children that are sick in their early stages, placing each teacher at risk (more so than the kids as we will be more susceptible to the virus than they are).  It is not properly known at this stage if children are propagators of the disease and teachers are being asked to care for them on mass despite this not being well understood.

Students are worried about Covid19.  Each day a new scenario is considered.  A child misses school due to their parent returning from overseas and being in quarantine.  A party where a person attended  that was breaching mandatory isolation.  A staff member has the sniffles and a sore throat but no fever.  Should we seperate desks or try and keep things business as usual?  An EALD overseas student returns from home after seeing their parents.  Kids concerned about parents out of work for an extended period. Kids not going to school for fear of Covid19.  Students pretending they have Covid19 to get out of school.  Parents keeping students at home asking for work.  Drug(Ventolin), basic needs and food shortages. If teachers get sick how does that potentially impact our families (even if teachers themselves have low mortality rates)?  How do we keep learning progressing if kids are kept home for an extended period?  How do we complete required assessment for 11/12 students? We have dealt with similar issues before with TB outbreaks or contagion for suicidal ideation, but Covid19 is another level of concern.

Yes, I understand that by keeping kids in schools we may be saving lives in the wider community.  What appears to be lacking is that teachers have been expected to take a frontline role, without being asked or given an option as with the rest of the population - there is not enough information available to know that we are safe.  To some degree it feels like teachers are being set up as the sacrificial lamb (or a lower risk option) to protect the economy, keep parents working, assist health care professionals stay in hospitals and grandparents to not have to care for kids.  Needless to say, teachers didn't sign up for getting sick, purely to ensure someone else doesn't.  When a virus is life threatening, a degree of self preservation kicks in.

The union has been silent on this issue.

I am not criticising the department - they have been open, communicative and have a government line to follow.

Currently teachers are being asked how they would deliver content if students were sent home.  The answer in many cases is that we don't know, we're busy trying to deliver content to kids that are in school as per any normal school year.  For 11/12 students, delivery through technology such as Connect is possible, but assessment remains an issue.  For a short period of time, online tutoring is possible, but instructional time is best face-to-face to ensure just in time intervention for students.

Needless to say, the fear of Covid19 is within our staffrooms and it is a current topic of conversation.  Although it is business as usual, the underlying fear of sickness has an effect on each member of staff which will manifest in a range of ways.  Although general morale is currently good and staff are soldiering on, if teachers start getting sick, it is hoped that schools do close and other measures to protect the wider community will be considered.

I certainly didn't think this would be the big issue in a new role!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

2020 Mid first term.

Being a HOLA can be challenging.  You teach, lead staff, manage student behaviour, guide curriculum, manage a budget and participate in middle management.  With 2/3 of your time teaching, sometimes you can feel a little thin.

This year, coming in cold to a new school, has been a challenge - especially ensuring the three classes I teach are challenged and comfortable without the usual background of work that gets done prior to the start of term.  It has been an interesting exercise seeing the difference in focus of a low SES school compared to a higher SES school.  I spent last week looking at metrics and there are so many focus areas that could be examined - the mind boggles at what can be done with these kids.

I did an interesting analysis of students that achieved 55+ in ATAR compared to cohort strength in NAPLAN9 and another of 55+ achievement in ATAR compared to students that finished the course.  Then used these statistics to predict year 10 class sizes by current counselling processes and those predicted to achieve 55+ ATAR scores.  What was interesting was the number of band 8/9/10 students that are not succeeding in upper school Mathematics courses or that are doing Applications and getting sub 55 course scores.

A straw poll in the top 8 maths class indicated that their favourite subject was Science.  Seriously something that needs fixing and checking why students are not inspired by mathematics education practices.  My hunch is an over dependence on Mathspace, nightly practice based homework, difficult investigations and a very focused and disciplined mathematics course is not providing as stimulating environment as is being done with the Science curriculum.

Working to my strengths is working directly with the kids.  Starting just-in-time intervention, acknowledging that motivation is a key component in performance and maximising learning whilst students are in the classroom.

For my 8's extension class, it's about ensuring that every class students have an aha moment - we work together to identify weaknesses, plug them one at a time and develop strengths.  For my Year 9 development class, it's about getting them to understand that they can do maths (and preparing them for the try a trade we've organised for the end of the year), for my Methods 12's it's establishing a strong work ethic, good work practices and balancing the risk/reward - their time doing Methods work is time well spent that will reap a reward at the end of the year.  We've struggled with the OT Lee text but seem to be on top of it now.

I've enjoyed developing investigations for year 8s, IEPs for year 9's and developing a predominantly flipped classroom for my 12s.  The videos (private playlist here - not public distribution quality, just for my students predominantly presenting OT Lee/Saddler examples) for the 12's. They take a couple of hours each Saturday to develop and upload, but it has been key to allaying the fears of the 12s having a new face to teach them.

I really miss my interactive whiteboard and having a younger team looking to me for guidance.

I'm tiring and losing weight, my car died, my foot is playing up and I'm not exercising as much as I would like.  It's week 5.  I know I have to slow down a little as the pace I've set is not sustainable.  It's fun though, it's not the weary slog of last year, it's a new challenge I should have taken on but was worried about leaving Girrawheen on good terms, with a good staff to fill the gap I would leave without significant disruption.  As far as I know they are doing well and so am I (I haven't had feedback otherwise yet).  Bring on the rest of the year!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Day 5: First day with the kids

Sat down today and did the exercises for tomorrow, wrote names in my teachers journal and looked at student results for last year.  It's all a bit cathartic and readying me for working with kids.  There's always that nervousness that the kids won't respond the same way in a new context.

I'm missing my car, each day I've popped down to the repair place to pick it up but it hasn't quite been ready.  It's amazing how awkward it is not to have something that you rely on - can't stay late at work,  can't get the bike to do regular rides, can't pop to the shop to get resources.

My own kids are starting year 2 and year 6.  They're excited which is great as all years have not been this way.

Managed to get access to school data, logins, timetables on Friday afternoon.  Starting to wade through the information and see what is happening.  Some Exam results are concerning some  NAPLAN results are very encouraging.  Horses for courses. Yay!


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 2: Learning to keep quiet and watch and learn

Ok, seemed to navigate day 1 without creating a reef of grief.  Fell asleep during the yoga exercise, hopefully didn't snore too loudly.  Looked at last year's results. Looks good so far.  Keep quiet you idiot until you know what you are talking about.  Vocalise here where nobody reads it and it can cause no concerns.  Talk bout the kids and the holidays, keep it light.

There are many things that I wish I was good at.  I've watched people walk the room and talk to everyone in sight, with a smile and some smalltalk.  I gave it a red hot go and hope that people see me as a fairly affable soul looking keen to get started in a new role (and not the annoying new person that knows everything).  Work the absent minded professor role and see what happens.

I can't tell where the undercurrent is coming from, but it appears to be there - a group of people outwardly working together but a very strange vibe at the moment.  It could just be new people working together and not quite gelling yet, I really hope so.  It appears that there has been significant turnover, which has created administrative load.

Timetables today.  Hopefully IT issues sorted out.  It would be nice to get some time to walk the school and learn the lay of the land.  Need a spec teacher stat! Get a few boxes of stuff out of my garage and onto my shelves.  It's all a very odd feeling.  Start operational plans and budgets.

Back to waking at 5am.  This is good as I've been sleeping in too long and was wondering if it was an age thing.  Hives on my left wrist telling me to calm down.  I'm so excited though!! Enthusiasm is a good thing!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New day, new job, first day jitters

For the first time in many years I start in a new job, with new people and a new context to apply my skills.  It's a bullet I should have bitten a fair time ago and so far I'm glad I did it.  For the first time in my career I walk away from an environment without leaving a big hole that is difficult to fill and hopefully on good terms.  Last year wasn't a bad year. I've been a Deputy for an extended period, I've come out relatively unscathed and I've won a great position in a new school.

As you get more senior in an environment, it's fairly normal to see divergence in what you think should be done and what the general consensus is.  If you tend to be less risk averse than the incumbent team, then the gap is likely to increase with time.  There are a number of main ways to deal with it.  You can roll with it, you can try to influence the decision makers or you can leave and find a new environment and bring your hard won skills with you.  The alternative is to stay, get stale and discontent.

I've tried the roll with it routine, it's not me and I get frustrated over time.  It's more my style to run a team, to understand the goals of the decision makers, influence the team to align with those goals and influence decision makers to align with what the team wants to achieve and measure the results.  My last role sat between the decision makers and staff and I spent a lot of time explaining and supporting decisions that I didn't always agree with and had no team to work with.  It's exciting to be back with a team and be able to do great things again.

With performance management, I work with staff to ensure that they don't feel stale.  What is the path to their ATAR class, do they want leadership opportunities, do they need support whilst their children are growing up, how are they travelling physically and mentally, do they need pedagogical, assessment or behavioural support, do they need support understanding the evidence base of their classes, are they looking for promotion, do their requirements align with the needs of our students and the school?  These are critical questions to ensuring that staff are engaged and have a clear career pathway to staying relevant in the system.

This time, I don't know if I have an enthusiastic team wanting me to succeed, but I'm guessing so as nearly all teaching staff are good people.  I will miss those that carried me through difficult times and believed that I could do it, even when I looked at a problem and thought how can I do all that!  Doing the impossible has been in my job description a few times in my career, looking at the stats of my new school, for a change, this does not appear the case.  I'll know more when I have more information at hand today.

I'm looking forward to doing the basics well.  Operational Plan, Performance Management, Compliance documents, Faculty Budget, Evidence base, Teaching and Learning.

I've prepped what I can, I've had a good break, everything seems to be aligning nicely.  Bring on that first day!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Should I send my children to a state high school?

Short answer.  In nearly every case. Yes.  If you live in the Western Suburbs and their peers are going to an Independent Public school, if your child is top 5% academically or has an disability, you have personal history at that school, if your local public school is going through a difficult transition or if you are looking for religious education as part of the curriculum then maybe not.

Long Answer. As a teacher supportive of public education this was a very difficult decision and long drawn out process for my own children.  For a short period I was teaching in a public school, was an advocate for private education and was sending my children to a private school.  It made it very difficult to recommend a state school to parents and raised the question of "if I believed in the private system why wasn't I teaching in the private system too?",  "Was I not good enough to even teach in a higher SE school and why wasn't a public school good enough for my own children?"

I wanted the best for my kids as do all parents, the independent private schools had superior resourcing and better results.  Surely it was a no brainer to pay the money and get a better education.

With the benefit of hindsight I can say that I was very, very wrong for my family.  There are clear reasons why private schools outperform public schools and though it has a little to do with teaching quality as they have more control over staffing processes, it is not the only factor.  Despite odd employment practices in the public system, there are very fine, vocational teachers working in public schools working under demanding conditions.

The basic reason private schools outperform public schools in low SE schools is that cost of living clumps struggling families together.  Many families in low SE areas lack the education to support their children, in many cases had poor experiences within the education system and subsequently lack support for the education system itself.  The proportion of drug use, poor parental skills, unemployment, cultural issues, mental health issues, lack of tertiary study and lack of contact with their own children due to work commitments is much higher.  The entry levels of students at low SE schools are much lower requiring more creative work by teachers in secondary school to access the curriculum.  The skills of teachers in low SE schools is not just about curriculum, it's dealing with all the other issues too, whilst teaching children.

For most people, in higher SE areas there are few reasons not to use higher SE state schools, your decision should be based on local performance and perception.  Investigate local issues with local parents to see what is really going on.  Public documents will not reveal much.  If parents talk about bullying and uncontrolled classes think about the local fee paying privates - but make sure it's not happening there too.  Find out about the tenure of the Principal and their focus. Shifting students from public to private between primary and secondary is tempting but brings a considerable level of disruption to their learning whilst they adjust.  There is risk in transition socially, emotionally and academically at a time of significant developmental change.

My own experience putting my first child in a high ranking independent private school from Kindergarten was not good.  I was promised a thriving young girl and was delivered an unhappy child in a highly competitive environment, with little curriculum differentiation for a quirky student (as opposed to children at either end of the educational spectrum), poor pastoral care and a group of upwardly mobile people that we could not relate to.  As the naive parent that initially proposed sending my child there, it is a decision I have forever regretted.

It's not that the school did not deliver for those parents that pressed their kids, wanted homework, were in the top 5% or had an ID, students that benefitted from strict curriculum delivery and desired upward mobility or were already wealthy and knew it.  It just wasn't what we wanted for our kids.  After four years of an unhappy child, we moved her to the local public school.  It has taken two years for her to be a happy kid again and having normal developmental issues rather than social and curriculum ones.  What I discovered was the difference of her being embedded with families of similar values outweighs perceived academic benefits.  She could be a kid again and develop at her own pace together with our expectation that she would always give her best effort - not be coached beyond it through constant parental tutoring - the expectation at the private independent school to compete.  If you are in a situation like us, I'd suggest rip off the band-aid and get them out, don't hesitate and don't struggle with the decision.  It is the kindest thing to do for your child.

We all want the best for our kids.  Mine can cope in an environment where they are instructed what to do and are happy to do it.  At their new school there is little bullying and enough pastoral care available to deal with little issues.  Teaching is a bit hit and miss as the environment is not particularly challenging and because there is no mechanism to weed teachers out if the teacher can't deliver.

We have three low fee private schools nearby and still have her enrolled at one in case of another parental catastrophic failure but I don't expect to use it.  I know low fee paying private schools do pastoral care well and are less likely to do the "weed" out of students that do not fit purely the academic mould than the high performing Independent private schools.  I have looked into the public feeder high school and am very happy with what I hear from parents at the primary school with older siblings, we should now be ok.

The low SES school that I taught at for so long has better teachers with a more diverse skill set.    Students quickly identify the weak links in teaching staff and move them on.  Kids that can't cope with the difficult environment move on to low fee private schools or higher SE public schools.  Training of teachers is relentless to ensure best practices are maintained to prevent an unproductive environment.  For kids struggling behaviourally it is a much better environment than a private school where they would be asked to leave and have their basic security challenged whilst they matured.  For them the low SE public school is great as the school wants them and wants to help them mature.

For kids that grow up in the area, can survive the environment, are smart and get access to ATAR programs they wouldn't otherwise, they benefit from intense assistance (without these students the school would lack aspiration and growth).  These kids are the pride of their schools, kids that do succeed, despite all the noise that interrupts their learning.

Given my obvious appreciation of low SE teachers, why did I not send my children there?  My kids  lack the social experiences to deal with the environment, I'll support them to university or whatever they choose, they do not need the extra support to cater to local requirements and don't have the skills to cope with the difficult students.  Their home environment is not what I grew up in and they'll do better in a higher SES school.

I was a strong believer in the values education provided by a low fee private school, particularly the service beyond self ethos.  I acknowledge when done well it is brilliant.  I'm not so sure anymore that it is the norm though (after teaching briefly in one at the start of my career - it was superficial at best), but am open to considering it again - it's just that I've seen the service beyond self ethos in public schools provided by teachers in an authentic way, not forced by curriculum and wonder if this form to kids is more effective.  Rotary Interact clubs are a great substitute for this with a win-win for the community and students, where students decide what they want to benefit and it's not a form of community service enforced slavery, tainting their perception of public service.

So, for me choosing a school, ultimately now is not about league tables - it's about cultural fit.  Choose where your child will thrive and forget the rest - it will follow regardless.  There will be exceptions, but the general rule is this - if it feels wrong it probably is.  Ask some questions, make some changes and if it doesn't improve, if the child is not happy, move them.  You are doing the right thing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Saddler Methods text and general ideas for improving ATAR results

I've been a proponent of Sadler texts in low SES schools as they are relatively cheap, ramp slowly, have reasonable worked examples and I really like the built in study through the Miscellaneous exercises.  Some teachers really dislike them and prefer the Nelson texts instead and for some students the Nelson text is better.  By doing the Sadler Unit 3 Methods text again to reacquaint myself with the course, it has reminded me of a few pitfalls I have encountered along the way.

There are some tricks to using the Saddler text.

1. Go through each worked example with students identifying explicitly what Saddler wanted students to recognise in each topic.
2. Understand that Saddler does not cover every dot point in the syllabus.  You do need to check what is missing and include it in your programme.
3. Check that students are doing the Miscellaneous questions, otherwise they will miss one of the greatest benefits of the Sadler text.
4. There are few exam level questions in the text.  Ensure students use their revision guide in conjunction with the text.
5. Provide revision papers, prior to tests and exams, to get students to assessment level.  The text does not do this at all.
6. Make connections to the glossary and formula sheet whilst students are learning.
7.  Use a journal to identify key points (eg. get students to put their notes in a seperate book from their exercises) and then generate their page of notes from the journal.
8. Get students to highlight question numbers that are tricky or test corners of the syllabus that may turn up in assessment.
9. Identify which questions may appear in calculator sections and which questions appear in non-calculator sections.
10. Explicitly teach and enforce calculator usage until competency.
11. Make sure students are reaching questions at the end of chapters and not just doing 15 easy questions in class.
12. Do corrections (and go through the assessment) after each assessment.
13. Ensure that students check answers after every exercise (at a minimum) and redo questions that are incorrect.  Preferably in red pen, so that you can see from a distance without interrupting them.
14. Be mindful that some exercises take longer than others when setting homework.  As a safety net, I tell students to stop after 1hr 15 mins and assume that they will do a minimum of 45 mins every night.  If it is the whole class, we continue the exercise the next day.  If just a few students we identify together why they are taking too long and try to remedy it.
15. Extend students with the Nelson text if they are finishing earlier than the rest of the class.  In some cases, get them to use this text instead.

I tell students the following:
a) Do only the first ten questions in each exercise and expect to fail.
b) Do the main exercises only and you may reach 50% on assessments and expect to fail the exam.
c) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, you may reach 50% on assessments and it's possible to pass the exam.
d) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary, you should reach 50% on assessments and could pass the exam.
e) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary and use the revision guide, you should do well (60%) on assessments and may pass exams.
f) Do the main exercises and miscellaneous exercises, make good notes, understand the syllabus dot points/glossary, use the revision guide and do your corrections thoroughly, you should do well (60%+) on assessments and about the same in the exam.
g) Make a study group prior to exams and allocate content research for revision to each member prior to study meetings to further improve exam results.  Drop members that are not actively contributing.
h) Do as many past papers as you can lay your hands on and have time to complete. Identify any patterns in papers.
i) Do all the past ATAR papers prior to Mock/ATAR exams.

Given the median in exams is over 70%, points g-i are imperative for low SES students to reaching the state mean (not only using Methods as part of your ATAR score).  We would complement above with after school classes, UWA Fairway, ECU Studiosity and summer schools to help students rectify the 2 year gap that they entered high school with.

Natural ability will take some students so far and buck the trend, but usually it catches up with them.  The formula above has worked well with getting average students through the course and though "obvious" took a fair few years to nut out what worked and what was ineffective for larger groups of students (other than just the top four students or students falling behind getting intensive tutoring).