The Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012 highlights the need to accelerate achievement in early literacy and numeracy, and the attainment of school qualifications through students’ presence, engagement and achievement at school. In other words, Pacific students need to be at school in order to be able to learn (presence); they need to be motivated and active participants in their learning (engagement); and they need to achieve at the same rate as other students.
For the last three years, in each school where Pacific students were enrolled, ERO has asked questions about their achievement and the way schools identified and met their learning needs. As part of its education reviews in the Auckland region in late 2008, ERO refocused its evaluation process to investigate what schools knew about Pacific students’ presence, engagement and achievement. In addition, ERO asked about initiatives that the schools had developed and implemented since their last education review, and the impact these had on raising achievement outcomes for Pacific students. This report presents the findings of this pilot evaluation in 32 schools in the wider Auckland region.
ERO chose Auckland as the region to pilot this evaluation because two-thirds (66.9 percent) of Pacific peoples live in the Auckland region. Schools in Auckland, particularly in Manukau City, have the highest concentrations of Pacific students, and the schools tend to be in the lower decile range in a quarter of the pilot schools. In this evaluation, Pacific students comprised more than two thirds of the roll in a quarter of the pilot schools.
Overall, in these schools, Pacific student attendance was not a concern. Although some secondary schools recognised that Pacific students were over-represented among stand downs and suspensions, there was a generally positive trend in aspects of Pacific student attendance. ERO found that student presence was high in almost a third of the schools, and had improved in half. In this evaluation the majority of Pacific students were at school and were there to participate.
Schools had implemented various initiatives to improve or maintain student presence including close monitoring, identifying trends or patterns and intervening early, and developing home-school partnerships. Most schools believed that their initiatives had resulted in improved relationships with parents, improved attendance, fewer disciplinary incidents, but many were yet to establish formal ways of measuring the impact of these initiatives.
Given that Pacific students have good attendance in the majority of schools, it is crucial that school leaders and teachers engage students in relevant and meaningful learning while they are there. ERO found that three-quarters of the schools had either continued to engage their students well or had improved the levels of engagement. These schools had recognised the importance of good quality teaching strategies as integral to the engagement process, and had undertaken professional learning and development projects to improve teaching. Although most of these initiatives did not specifically target Pacific student achievement, school leaders believed that the benefits accrued through more focused and evidence-based teaching were of benefit to Pacific students. Formalising review into the outcomes of these initiatives for Pacific students would help to confirm this belief.
In schools with effective student engagement, school leaders had clear expectations for Pacific students. Their prime goal was to reduce achievement disparity and to improve outcomes through good teaching, but the relationship with parents and families was also seen as critical. School leaders sought ways to involve Pacific parents in decisions about their child, to increase their understanding of their child’s achievement, and to encourage involvement in school processes and activities.
There is still much to be done to improve the achievement levels and progress of Pacific students. ERO found that about half of the schools in this sample had improved the literacy and numeracy achievement levels of Pacific students since their last review. Some schools had very good assessment data and had used their data analysis to inform teaching. However, it is concerning that about a quarter of schools either had poor quality information about Pacific student achievement or did not collect this data. Similarly, over a third did no analysis of Pacific student achievement and had no targets for Pacific students.
Schools have a critical role in reversing the disproportionate numbers of Pacific students achieving at the lowest levels. If the Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012 is to make a positive difference for Pacific students nationally, all schools need to place a strong focus on progress and achievement, and to collect, analyse and use achievement information to improve outcomes.
This report includes vignettes of good practice from schools that have placed a significant emphasis on improving outcomes for Pacific students. There is also a set of self-review questions that schools can use to begin discussions about the extent to which they cater for Pacific students.