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 School Improvement:  Measuring
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MEASURING is the process of using some units or a scale to make observations and collect data.

Using a shared rating scale makes easier it to collect and share information about a whole range of experiences. The following examples are drawn from the day to day practices of Riverside Primary School.


The RPS Scale

The School uses a four point scale to rate almost everything relative to expectations

1.  Exceeds expectations

2.  Meets expectations

3.  Some concerns

4.  Some serious concerns

Reporting to Parents
Formal reporting to parents (twice each year) includes ratings on 60 - 70 criteria covering literacy, numeracy, other academic performance, work practices and social & personal development.
It is very easy to see the current strengths and weakness of any student's performance. This data forms the basis of well focused and intelligent conferencing between staff, students and their parents. 


The reason for gathering data is to inform the next action. The shared rating scale operates as both a measuring system and as a flagging system. The outcome of these parent-student-teacher conferences is an action plan for the immediate future.
In a similar way teachers conference between years to achieve further consistency.


Learning Goals
Students are encouraged to appraise the learning goals they have set: 

1. Delighted: goals exceeded, will raise future goals
2. Satisfied: goals met, continue improvements
3. Concerned: goals not met, have identified things for attention
4. Seriously concerned: need outside help now

Using this framework students learn to establish high but reasonable goals. Having 'measured' their performance against previously establish targets they are more informed and more in charge of themselves.


Student Profiles
These scales have enabled the School to implement a system of long term profiles for monitoring students' 

  • learning, 
  • work practices 
  • and social and personal development. 

These profiles are benchmarked against standardised Department of Education testing. These profiles are reported to families, and form the basis of discussions between staff, students and their parents. These profiles also form the basis for planning and managing and monitoring special provision


Playground Study
 This scale is also used in self appraisal by individual students and groups of students in relation to their playground experiences. The scale reads as follows 

1: Great day: better than expected
2: OK day: had a good time; as expected
3: Poor day: disappointed, had some problems but all Ok now
4: Bad day: seriously concerned: needed) help (more...)

The youngest children use a range of 'smiley' faces to record their experiences. The study itself is a statement of School values and expectations.
On the basis of the information provided by the students themselves the school has achieved a dramatic improvement in the quality everyone's experiences in the playground. The data collected informed improvements in playground rules, facilities and equipment and the School's educational programs. 


Self Monitoring Students
Individual students who are being assisted with their self management also use this scale to conference with staff and report daily to their families. After independently rating performance for a given period (eg a day) the student and teacher are in a position to confer about the results. Specialist staff can also contribute a rating with little inconvenience. Each is able to explain his/her appraisal giving reasons that often provide vital insights for the other. 

A poorly performing student often rates themselves harshly or very favourably because of one incident. Poor behaviour is often associated with poor thinking. Helping a student see his/her day as a whole is a starting point for more balanced responses to life's ups and downs. 
With a clear record to prove it one bad day does not wipe out the several good days that proceeded it. Similarly with a record that clearly includes good days there is reason for hope even on the worst days. 

And there is a basis for discussion:  What was the difference today?  What made it easier on the other days?....  And other supporting staff can also keep up to date with how things are progressing, eg, 

Principal to Scott (9 yrs) at end of day after a brief conference with his teacher: "How was your day?"
Scott, in reply: "It was a 2.5. It was a 2 until Recess then I did some silly things that spoilt the rest of the day".
Principal: "So the rest of the day was a 3?"
Scott: "Yes, but I can do better tomorrow. I know what went wrong. This afternoon was better actually"
Principal: "Sounds like you've got it under control"
Scott (with a smile): "I think so"
Principal: "Well done and good luck. Let me know if you need help"
Scott: "See ya Mr Webb"

Monitoring Behaviour
Improvement in student behaviour is not simply a lessening of the severity of problem behaviours. There are other kinds of data that need to be collected in order to know if progress is being achieved. Progress in student behaviour tends to occur in this order:

1. Firstly, increased time between incidents of poor or unacceptable behaviour
2. Shorter recovery time after an incident of poor behaviour
3. Lastly the severity of the poor behaviour is reduced

Sadly real progress is often dismissed as imaginary simply because the last thing to improve is the behaviour itself. If not well understood (and documented) this can be very discouraging to the student, his/her parents and teachers. The three pieces of data are vital to maintain momentum when students have a bad day.