The Schooling Improvement team of the Ministry of Education sought to examine the current state of Pasifika academic achievement in Schooling Improvement initiatives and in individual schools. Part of the examination was to identify aspects of Schooling Improvement (SI) work that has been shown to enhance or hinder academic achievement for Pasifika students and to offer some recommendations. This report is a summary of a detailed technical report from Auckland UniServices Limited prepared by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre. Details of each of the sections summarised here are contained in ‘Ua aoina le manogi o le lolo: Pasifika Schooling Improvement Full Technical Report’ (Amituanai-Toloa, McNaughton, Lai, & Airini, 2009).
Author(s): Meaola Amituanai-Toloa, Stuart McNaughton, Mei Kuin Lai and Airini
Date Published: February 2010
Data systems vary across and between schools – there is a pressing need for data systems to be both developed more coherently and standardised for easy and accurate reporting.
There is evidence that SI initiatives can be effective for Pasifika students but greater differentiation in practices and goals for Pasifika is needed to make greater gains.
Case studies of effective schools within Schooling Improvement clusters provide quantitative and qualitative support for four hypotheses about effective instruction and attributes of students associated with achievement. The hypotheses relate to the need for: substantial connections between schools and their communities; deeply embedded inquiry processes and coherence in school practices; generically effective instruction which has been adapted to be culturally responsive; and the presence of (largely unknown) language and motivational attributes of students.
Students have distinct views of effective forms of instruction; for example they want clearer instruction and more challenging academic work.
Parents want more explicit and differentiated information on how they can support their children, and they have views that they can contribute to schools’ thinking about effective instruction.
Being bilingual is not an impediment to academic achievement of Pasifika learners.
There is a need for induction for newly arrived Pasifika students.
Clusters vary in effectiveness in terms of rates of gain over the school year and there were achievement drops over summer (the Summer Learning Effect).
More gains are needed to reach a full match with nationally expected distributions in achievement.
There are substantial gender differences in the levels achieved although rates of gain are similar.
In the Focus Cluster, there were gender differences in the levels achieved although not in the rate of gains, and while different Pasifika groups achieved at similar rates, Samoan students tended to score at higher levels (but not always).
Judgements about effectiveness need to be made over more than a year. One reason for this is that there are substantial Summer Learning Effects.
It is very important to be able to examine how higher achieving students fare in programmes.
There were high gain and low gain schools within the cluster and the differences need to be teased out further to examine features of schools associated with these differences.
Unlike the statistical modelling using rates of gain in achievement where there were no differences in rates of gain associated with gender or language, in our ‘level difference’ statistical models gender, time lived in New Zealand, home language and school were associated with significantly different levels of achievement.
Both rate of gain and level of achievement need to be considered when
evaluating effectiveness of schools and Schooling Improvement with Pasifika students.
Three hypotheses about school effectiveness received support from the Case Study evidence. These were that more effective schools would be associated with: (1) the presence of significant and wide ranging two way connections between schools and their communities; (2) the presence of inquiry processes and a collective sense of being able to solve achievement issues both of which are embedded into school practices; and (3) the presence of high quality instruction that is culturally responsive. A fourth hypothesis which received mixed support was that there would be attributes of Pasifika learners that would be related to achievement (for example, there was no evidence for the Case Studies that having two or more languages is an impediment to high success either at primary or at secondary; more familiarity with the New Zealand education system is advantageous).
Parents want to receive specific information about their child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and are keen to receive advice, and they have ideas about both practices at home and at school through which they could make a contribution.
The coherence between teachers’ practices appears to be especially significant so that there is consistency in pedagogical approaches as well as in focus and goals.
Schools, to varying degrees, taught using generically effective forms of instruction, but adapted them to be applicable to and responsive to different Pasifika learners. However, the specific measures from classroom instruction, when examined at a teacher level, were not related systematically to either rate of gain in classroom or achievement levels. But when combined and averaged across schools, there was evidence that teachers’ measures of instructional quality and cultural responsiveness were associated with overall school achievement, thus suggesting that coherence in instruction and cultural responsiveness in schools may be more important than individual teachers’ specific practices.
The twin dimensions of positive relations and incorporating students’ resources (as parts of culturally responsive teaching) were identified to varying degrees in classrooms. Importantly, the significance of these attributes of teaching was echoed by the students.
Pasifika pedagogies that are being developed in these schools, in the sense of being adapted to Pasifika learners, draw on background knowledge including topics and event knowledge, language patterns and activities, and the students and teachers are aware of this.
There is the dimension of a strong emotional relationship which, together with the instructional attributes, has elements of being both rigorous and challenging as well as being respectful and empathetic.
The student voices were very similar to those in the Te Kotahitanga project (Bishop, Berryman, Tiakiwai, & Richardson, 2003), but the adaptations include a need for teachers to provide a strongly supportive base enabling the students to take risks, and be critically engaged.
The patterns of development in achievement may look different for those students with a Pasifika language or both a Pasifika and English language background in the earlier years, compared with English only students. But from the middle and upper primary and into the secondary years bilingualism may (under important conditions not tested here, such as level of bilingualism) lead to similar outcomes as having a strong English-only status, and in a wider sense confer other advantages.
For newly arrived students there is a need to have very explicit induction and support to develop the knowledge and skills required for local schooling.