School Excellence terminology

Terms and definitions

Commonly encountered terms relating to School Excellence.

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  1. A
    • Activities

      Activities are key steps developed to support the implementation of each initiative identified in the Strategic Improvement Plan. 

    • Annual report

      In accordance with the Australian Education Regulation 2013 and the department’s School Excellence policy, schools are required to produce and publish an annual report. This reporting is a key part of a principal's responsibility and accountability. Schools report to their community on their school context, findings from self-assessment, implementation and impact of the Strategic Improvement Plan, expenditure of funds, management of resources, student and staff information, policy requirements, and student learning outcomes.

    • Assessment

      Methods or tools that evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.

  1. B
    • Base school allocation

      The base school allocation is funding provided to schools as part of the RAM for the core cost of educating each student and operating a school. This includes staffing (teaching/school administrative and support staff), operational funding and a loading for location.

    • Baseline

      The school's agreed starting value on an improvement measure. This is normally calculated by triangulating current and historical data at the time of setting this value.

    • Benchmark

      A standard or reference point against which performance can be assessed. For example, the NAPLAN National Minimum Standard or the performance of your Similar Schools Group.

  1. C
    • Cohort (student)

      Students who are grouped by year level or class.

    • Curriculum

      Subjects and other content comprising a course of study that are taught, learned and assessed.

  1. D
    • Data

      Measurements or observations that are collected as a source of information. There are many different sources of data in schools, from work samples and assessments to administrative records, observations, direct feedback and more. Within this range, there are also different types of data, for example, qualitative and quantitative, each with its own strengths and limitations. Data becomes evidence when it helps us answer a question or test whether a claim is true.

  1. E
    • EAL/D

      English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) students are those whose first language is a language or dialect other than English and who require additional support to develop proficiency in Standard Australian English (SAE).

    • Effect

      The change, either intended or unintended, as a result of an intervention. The causal effect – the things that would not have happened if not for the intervention, is the important effect, when reflection on the impact of any intervention or initiative.

    • Effectiveness

      The extent to which the intervention’s objectives were achieved, or are expected to be achieved.

    • Equity

      To be fair or impartial. In schools this means making sure every student is provided with what they need to be successful to increase students’ conceptual understanding, skills and knowledge. Equity is not equality, which occurs when every student is treated the same way. Equity recongises that some students and cohorts of students need additional support and resources to address the impact of educational disadvantage. Addressing equity in student outcomes is a feature of high performing education systems.

    • Equity loading

      Equity loadings are funding provided to schools as part of the RAM to meet the additional learning needs of cohorts of students experiencing educational disadvantage. The four equity loadings are: socio-economic background, Aboriginal background, English language proficiency and low level adjustment for disability.

    • Evaluation

      A systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed project, program or policy. This includes investigating how, why and to what extent, the stated objectives or goals were achieved.

    • Evaluation plan

      The evaluation plan outlines the strategies that will be used in self-assessment processes to determine the progress and impact of your strategic direction. The data and evidence identified in this section provides information to assist in decision-making.

    • Evidence

      A general term that refers to qualitative and quantitative data that can inform a decision or course of action. Often the terms evidence and data are used interchangeably, however, they have distinct meanings. Data becomes evidence when it is used to prove something or support a conclusion. For example, NAPLAN scores on their own are data. However, if you then use these performance scores to support the conclusion that your students’ performance has improved, these scores become evidence of that conclusion. Evidence in the context of informing next steps in education should consider both evidence of what should work, for example, drawn from the research and literature, and evidence of context, for example, what do we know of the current situation. When discussing evidence there are 3 types of evidence to consider: evidence of activity, evidence of process quality and evidence of impact. It should be noted that evidence of activity or process quality cannot be used as a proxy for evidence of impact.

    • Evidence-based practice

      Teaching strategies and behaviours that are based on and backed up by the best available evidence.

    • External validation

      Excellence in NSW public schools is supported by the external validation process. Once during a School Excellence cycle, schools undergo an external validation of the evidence of their school self-assessment which in turn, supports the development of the Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP). External validation provides an opportunity for schools to discuss their judgements about the school’s practice, and the evidence that underpins them, with a panel of peers. An external validation process provides an assurance to the school and to the system that the progress being made aligns with the expectations articulated in the School Excellence Framework.

  1. F
    • Family Occupation and Education Index (FOEI)

      The FOEI is a school-level index of educational disadvantage related to socio-economic background. FOEI values range from 0 to approximately 300, with higher FOEI scores indicating higher levels of need (i.e. lower socio-economic status). FOEI is used as the basis of the equity loading for socio-economic background in the Department’s new Resource Allocation Model.

    • Formative assessment

      A type of student assessment that occurs during the learning process. Formative assessment aims to give teachers feedback about student progress so that instructional approaches, teaching materials, and academic support can be modified accordingly and feedback can be given to the student.

  1. I
    • ICSEA

      Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage. A measure of school socio-economic status created by ACARA and calculated for most schools in Australia. Incorporates parental education and occupation, student Aboriginality, and school remoteness.

    • Impact

      A marked effect or change as a result of a particular intervention, such as a program or policy. Impacts can be short, medium or long-term. To make a statement of impact you need a relevant and reliable baseline against which a comparison can be made. See also: evidence for notes on evidence of impact.

    • Improvement measure

      An improvement measure is a statement of the impact that will be achieved by the expected year of the School Excellence cycle through your Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP).

    • Initiative

      Initiatives are high-level projects and/or processes that schools undertake in order to achieve the improvement measures. They are high level statements that describe how the strategic direction purpose statement is going to be achieved. They are planned, monitored and evaluated through the implementation and monitoring section of the school plan in SPaRO.

    • Initiative funding

      Initiative funding is funding provided to schools to support designated programs and initiatives.

    • Intervention

      A program, practice, or policy aimed at improving outcomes.

  1. L
    • Learning intentions

      Statements created by the teacher that clearly describe what the teacher would like students to know, understand and be able to do by the end of a learning period or unit.

    • Learning outcomes

      Clear and specific statements that describe what students are expected to demonstrate at the end of a defined stage of learning

    • Lower bound

      Within the recommended system-negotiated target range, the bottom of the range.

  1. N
    • Needs-based funding

      Needs-based funding is the recurrent resourcing targeted to students and schools based on characteristics of demonstrated educational disadvantage, and provided to lift student learning outcomes. This includes funding distributed directly to schools, and other resourcing provided indirectly or centrally by the Department.

    • Network target

      A target established through consultation between the principal and the Director, Educational Leadership and used as an improvement measure in particular contexts where there is an insufficient local cohort, e.g. small schools.

  1. O
    • On-balance judgement

      A conclusion about your school’s practices based on your evidence and the Statement of Excellence for the relevant SEF element. ‘On-balance judgement’ acknowledges that a school may have evidence against descriptors for some ‘Excelling’ practices and some ‘Sustaining and Growing' practices within one element. An ‘on-balance judgement’ weighs up these different pieces of evidence to make the most accurate assessment of the school’s practices.

    • Operational funding

      Operational funding is funding provided to schools as part of the RAM for the core costs of educating each student and operating a school, not including staffing costs. This includes School Operational Funding (SOF), utilties, per capita funding, urgent minor maintenance, initiative funding, and site specific funding.

    • Outcomes

      Results or changes that are observable and measurable based on a set of inputs and activities. Outcomes can be short-term, such as milestones or steps towards a final goal, or long-term.

  1. P
    • Pedagogy

      Methods employed by teachers that allow learning to take place. Pedagogy is context dependent and incorporates knowledge of how students learn in particular subjects.

    • Progress measure

      A value for each improvement measure in the Strategic Improvement Plan indicating the estimated annual level of achievement against the baseline which is considered necessary to reach the final improvement objectives of the 4 year plan.

    • Purpose statement

      The purpose is a clear and succinct statement to explain why a strategic direction was chosen as a focus. It is: - a statement that is aspirational but also measurable and contextual - relates to the school vision - explains the reason or logic for the strategic direction - drives the whole strategic direction.

  1. Q
    • Qualitative data

      Non-numerical information that may come from open-ended questions, observations, work samples, pictures, audio or other sources. Qualitative data is data that is not easily reduced to numbers. In a school setting, qualitative data may come from observations, work samples, conversations, written documents and more. Thematic analysis of qualitative data is helpful for exploring emerging issues, providing rich description and context about a complex issue and building theories about what might explain trends and patterns in quantitative data. Qualitative data tends to help us answer questions about the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of a phenomenon, rather than questions of ‘how many’ or ‘how much’.

    • Quality teaching

      Effective instruction by teachers that facilitates learning and student growth through use of best practice.

    • Quantitative data

      Any information that can be reduced to a set of numbers, for example, where something is counted, measured or assessed. Quantitative data is any information that can be reduced to a set of numbers. Information from which you can create averages, differences or totals is quantitative data. This is particularly helpful for summarising large amounts of information in a snapshot, tracking trends over time and understanding patterns and differences from one group of participants to another.

  1. R
    • Reading literacy

      The capacity to understand, use, evaluate, reflect on and engage with texts, in order to achieve one’s goals, develop one’s knowledge and potential, and participate in society.

    • Recommended target range

      The distance between the lower and upper bound.

    • Reliability

      The consistency of the findings when some analysis is repeated at different times, by different people, or using different students.

    • Resource Allocation Model

      The Resource Allocation Model (RAM) is a needs-based funding model that uses a base and loadings approach to ensure a fair and transparent allocation of the state public education budget. Funding provided through the RAM includes targeted funding, equity loadings, and base school allocation.

  1. S
    • SBAR

      The School Budget Allocation Report (SBAR) shows each school’s annual funding allocation including targeted funding, equity loadings, staffing, operational costs, and initiative funding. The SBAR assists schools to make evidence-based decisions as they develop the school budget strategically aligned to the Strategic Improvement Plan. Funding delivered through the SBAR must benefit the students in the year in which the funding is provided.

    • School context

      The school context describes the school’s unique features and includes information that reflects on the educational, geographic and social characteristics of the school. The school context clearly states the school’s high level areas for improvement or further development established from the findings of the situational analysis.

    • School Excellence cohort

      All NSW public schools are assigned to one of four cohorts (A, B, C, D) aligned with the School Excellence cycle. The allocation of schools to each cohort determines each school’s year of participation in external validation.

    • School Excellence Framework (SEF)

      A statement of what is valued as excellence for NSW public schools, both now and into the future. All schools have areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. The School Excellence Framework (SEF) identifies quality practice across the 3 key domains of education — learning, teaching and leading — to help schools plan and monitor strategies for ongoing improvement.

    • School improvement

      When gains in teaching and learning occur as a result of the whole school community working together to change school practices.

    • School vision statement

      A school vision statement describes a school’s shared values and high level aspirations for ongoing school improvement. It is a statement about student learning and achievement based on school-identified priorities which in turn consider and reflect the Department of Education and Premier’s priorities.

    • School-determined target

      A target determined by the school (see 'target')

    • Scout

      The Department of Education's data and analysis platform, developed to provide better information about our schools, easily accessed in one central place. 

    • SEF S-aS

      The School Excellence Framework Self-assessment Survey (SEF S-aS) is a point-in-time, summative reflection using the School Excellence Framework. School self-assessment requires school leadership teams to work collaboratively to: reflect on the statement of excellence for each element of the SEF, consider the school’s evidence, and arrive at an on-balance judgement. This enables critical reflection on school improvement efforts and supports informed decision-making.

    • Situational analysis

      An authentic and rigorous assessment of a school’s current state used to inform their improvement journey in learning, teaching and leading. It is a key component of the School Excellence cycle. Conducting a situational analysis allows a school to develop a rich and highly contextualised understanding of their current state.

    • Socio-economic status (SES)

      Socio-economic status or socio-educational status. A measure of social and economic position in society, often created using the education and occupation of the parents of students. One of the biggest drivers of student outcomes. See definitions for FOEI and ICSEA.

    • SPaRO

      The School Planning and Reporting Online (SPaRO) software provides an online integrated process for schools to efficiently plan, self-assess and report.

    • Strategic direction

      A short and meaningful statement that articulates the transformation to be achieved through the Strategic Improvement Plan. Strategic directions provide a strong indication of the priorities that engage the school community in a common goal and are underpinned by the School Excellence Framework domains of learning, teaching and leading.

    • Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP)

      A Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) is a working document that details the steps a school will take to improve learning outcomes and the achievement and growth of all students.

    • Student growth

      The progress a student makes as they develop more advanced knowledge, deeper understanding and more sophisticated skills.

    • Student voice

      The views of students on their own schooling and learning. Student voice helps us to understand learning from the perspective of the learner.

    • Success criteria

      The success criteria articulates observable characteristics of the intended future state for the school once the improvement measures in the Strategic Improvement Plan have been achieved.

    • Summative assessment

      A type of student assessment that occurs at the end of a course of study or period of time and indicates a student’s achievement level against learning outcomes. It gives teachers the information they need to make accurate, consistent judgements about a student’s learning progress over time in relation to curriculum standards or other defined learning objectives.

    • Syllabus

      An outline of the requirements for teaching and learning in various subjects for particular stages of students’ learning. Syllabuses outline curriculum content in relation to the knowledge, skills, understanding, values and attitudes students are expected to learn within a given stage of learning.

    • System-negotiated targets

      A specific set of targets determined by the principal in consultation with their Director, Educational Leadership, and aligned to the Premier's Priorities and targets within those priorities. Some system-negotiated targets are 2 or 3 year targets, but will be published in the ‘Improvement measures’ field of your Strategic Improvement Plan.

  1. T
    • Target

      The measurable value or impact that the school is aiming to achieve. It can also be stated as a range from the baseline to the target value.

    • Targeted funding

      Funding provided to schools as part of the RAM to meet the needs of individual students. Targeted funding includes: Refugee Student Support, New Arrivals Program and Integration Funding Support.

    • Triangulate

      The practice of investigating and coming to a conclusion that is derived from multiple pieces of evidence, rather than a single piece of evidence.

  1. U
    • Unit of work

      The intended teaching and learning for a particular class for a specified period of time.

    • Uplift

      The distance between the baseline and the bottom of the range (lower bound).

    • Upper bound

      The top of the recommended system target range.

  1. W
    • Whole school

      The individuals, groups and organisations that make up the school community, including students, parents and carers, teachers, leaders, support and administrative staff, and community members and organisations.

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