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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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RAISe: the Raising Achievement in Schools initiative

Peter Hayes
Sue Benson
Peter Hayes is Co-Leader and Sue Benson is a Consultant with the Learning and Teaching K–12, Catholic Education Office of WA.

While some students thrive in today’s challenging educational setting, other students continue to struggle with basic literacy and numeracy skills. Educational institutions need to focus on developing a curriculum, pedagogy and learning culture that enables all students to reach their potential (Hayes & Noonan, 2008). The Raising Achievement in Schools (RAISe) initiative is designed to address these concerns within Western Australia’s Catholic Education sector. The initiative facilitates professional development for teachers to help them meet the needs of all students, drawing heavily on current research on school improvement and student learning.

The initiative commenced in 2004 with an intake of 20 schools. After five subsequent annual intakes, RAISe is now used by 88 primary and composite schools across the Geraldton, Bunbury and Perth dioceses.

First Wave Coordinators 

The process begins with First Wave Coordinators, who are appointed to help teachers develop expertise in problem solving the literacy and numeracy challenges that have arisen in their classrooms. First Wave Coordinators are staff members who have an overview of individual teachers’ strengths within each learning community. Their primary role is as facilitator. They may, for example, encourage pairings of teachers able to complement each other’s strengths if these connections have not already been initiated by the teachers themselves.

The First Wave Coordinators may at times take over the running of specific classes to provide the classroom teacher with time and opportunities to work alongside their colleagues, perhaps by observing their classes. The First Wave Coordinators may also play some role in modelling specific teaching practice to the whole class or groups of students, for later discussion with the classroom teacher.

The First Wave Coordinators and other RAISe personnel meet periodically with the school principal. This helps them maintain an awareness of the action-learning targets of each professional learning community, awareness of the time allocated to action research by each community, and an understanding of resources that participating teachers might need.

Each school has two First Wave Coordinators, covering years K–3 and 4–7. Their work is targeted to either literacy or numeracy, depending on the current focus of the school’s plan. First Wave Coordinators are supported by the Catholic Education Office via on-site and off-site professional learning opportunities. They are encouraged to build and maintain relationships with other RAISe schools. Schools may establish routine collegial visits and create informal opportunities to share and discuss issues regarding the implementation of RAISe.

Second Wave Teachers

The second wave of the RAISe process focuses attention on students who are struggling to demonstrate early literacy and numeracy independence. Reading Recovery is the preferred strategy for Literacy and EMU (Extending Mathematical Understandings) for Numeracy. Second Wave Teachers access professional development by participating in the continuing professional learning offered through partnerships with universities.

Third Wave Coordinators

Third Wave support is offered to students requiring long-term intervention. The Third Wave Coordinator works across the school, coordinating support for teachers and students requiring further assistance in the classroom. Schools usually appoint different staff members to the roles of First, Second and Third Wave Coordinator in order to spread the experience and insights gained through these roles.

Teacher Leaders

The Teacher Leader is a fourth role for school staff involved in RAISe. Teacher Leaders draw on the expertise of First, Second and Third Wave Teachers/Coordinators where appropriate. They welcome colleagues into their classroom and provide advice and support to other teachers. Teacher Leaders are available for co-teaching demonstrations and discussions and induction of new staff members. They provide a trusted link between theory and practice within the context of their particular school. They are usually chosen because of their keen interest in teaching and learning within particular focus areas, and are exceptional problem solvers when it comes to curriculum design and implementation. 

Professional development

It has long been understood that while short, off-site professional learning opportunities might increase teachers’ awareness of new learning practices and knowledge, the real development of ideas happens when teachers problem-solve real issues in their own classroom (Joyce & Showers, 2002).  This means that classroom teachers need access to time and opportunities to work alongside their colleagues. 

Professional development is offered by the system onsite, offsite and online by staff of the Catholic Education Office and university-based experts. A professional development strategy is offered concurrently.

  • Principals and Coordinators are offered professional development in order to assist teachers adopt and embed educational innovations in their daily work practice.
  • Teacher Leaders are offered professional development to further their own understandings about literacy and numeracy learning and teaching.
  • Whole school staff engage in professional development in order for the school to establish a vision for improvement and develop shared understandings and a common language.
  • The professional learning community, through action learning, enables collaborative problem solving while facilitating collegial support, feedback and learning.

Ongoing professional learning

RAISe learning communities are committed to continuous learning and professional development. Ongoing professional learning is an essential element in capacity building and is planned considering the following elements.

  • An aim to increase teacher capacity, informed by school data, that emphasises sufficient time for learning and application of learning
  • Collaborative learning paths for teachers that are embedded in a long-term vision for the school
  • Contextualised teacher learning in actual classrooms during the teaching day
  • Access to on-site practice that reflects current theoretical understandings
  • Access to effective whole-school and individual professional development, on-site, off-site and online
  • Support provided by visits from consultants to assist with curriculum development, provide feedback, participate in the action research and act as a ‘critical friend’.

Monitoring change 

A multidimensional approach to analysing data is an essential element of the RAISe process. Teachers collect, analyse and use student and class data to inform instruction. RAISeRPT software, developed at Murdoch University, facilitates data collection by mapping student achievement over time and allowing data storage at both student and class levels. Leaders interpret school data to monitor achievement, observe changes in trends and set priorities in forward planning. Schools use NuLitData software from year to year to investigate trends, student progress and the value added by the implementation if the initiative.

A comprehensive approach

RAISe is not about changing one or two things at the school or system level. It is comprehensive, inclusive and demanding of long-term planning in each element of the school’s design.  The benefits of this whole school approach include:

  • Providing a comprehensive framework for teaching and learning
  • Developing a cohesive professional learning community
  • Facilitating a data-informed focus on important aspects of the teaching, learning and assessment cycles
  • Establishing a common language for students, teachers, parents and leaders
  • Informing the planning of teacher professional development.

The successful work of the RAISe school communities reinforces the view that ‘good learning depends on the work of many’. (Teaching Australia, 2007, p7)

 

References

Hayes, P & Noonan, P 2008, ‘Best practice or better practice: Challenging the paradigm of teacher professional development’,  The Australian Educational Leader, 30 (2), pp 19–24.

Joyce, B & Showers, B  2002,  Student achievement through staff development (3rd edn), Longman Publishers, White Plains, NY.

Teaching Australia, 2007, National Professional Standards for Advanced Teaching and School Leadership: A Consultation Paper, AGQTP Australia.

KLA

Subject Headings

Catholic schools
Western Australia (WA)
Numeracy
Literacy
Learning problems
Teaching and learning
Primary education
Professional development
Educational planning