While Victoria may be called ‘the education state’, South Australia is setting its sights on claiming that mantle through a ground-breaking approach to school improvement.
After reviewing its annual school report plans, the state’s education department found that some schools were slow to improve and identified that this was partly because the support provided to schools had not been tailored enough.
Following consultations with global education experts, principals and local school leaders, the Department has developed a new resource which simplifies school improvement planning for local education teams and leaders.
The Department’s School Improvement Dashboard – developed using Microsoft Power BI and delivered via the Azure cloud – provides secure key data about each school’s student achievement and growth, student wellbeing, and organisational health.
“We know that schools are awash with data and that principals have complex jobs and a lot of competing demands on their time,” Ben Temperly, the South Australian Education Department’s acting chief operations officer, told The Educator.
“Our aim was to make the data as accessible, easy to understand and as immediate as possible so that principals and leaders could easily identify areas for improvement and evaluate the impact of interventions.”
Temperly said this process was mainly geared toward the end user.
“We spent a considerable amount of time co-designing the dashboard with our principals to make sure it is as relevant and user friendly as possible,” he explained.
“We’ll continue to refine the data sets and platform as we learn more from our principals about its utility.”
Temperly said the Dashboard is a “cornerstone product” for the wider school improvement model.
“The Department is putting a lot of effort into making sure it does the job well,” he said.
Vast benefits for principals
Temperly said that in many ways, the school improvement dashboard is a “personalised web page for school leaders and local education teams”.
“The dashboard presents key data to illustrate student achievement, growth, student wellbeing and organisational health. It can be accessed from a desktop or tablet with an internet connection,” he said.
It also provides school leaders with the chance to identify areas for improvement and to explore that area in more detail.
“Leaders can focus on key cohorts of students to inform targeted improvement strategies and gain insight into the views of students, parents and staff,” he said.
The Dashboard’s interactive features mean that all elements can be explored through a series of ‘explorer’ tabs.
“The tabs allow users to delve into more information on any of these metrics,” Temperly said.
“Additionally, filters, such as year level, gender, Aboriginal status and disability can all be applied to filter data and compare results.”