Wonga’s little winners
WONGA State School enjoys an enviable reputation, not least because of its consistent high performance in the Naplan literacy and numeracy tests.
‘‘We’ve been improving in the tests every year," says principal Michelle Davis, who took over running the school in 2002 and says she simply wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
‘‘One of the highlights this year was how many children we got in the upper two bands of the tests.’’
Mrs Davis, who has 2 children enrolled at the school, puts the credit for this steady improvement in her high performing teachers, alongside the support from regional office to use explicit instruction in all classes.
‘‘It has the research and the data to back this up,’’ says Mrs Davis. ‘‘This is an effective teaching practice adopted by our cluster of schools.’’
Explicit instruction does away with vague lecturing by teachers in which only the brightest kids will figure out the threads and see the meaning. It’s nebulous and foggy and runs the risk of leaving many kids behind in their understanding of what just happened in a class.
Explicit instruction has a clear, formal message to be delivered, and a formal, predictable way of doing that.
It is a simple step procedure: I do - we do - you do.
‘‘The teacher shows and teaches the skill, and we all do it together, and then the students go away and do it and receive feedback from the teacher,’’ says Mrs Davis.
‘‘The children like the program because there is consistency in the way we do things.
‘‘There is predictability of routine, there’s a sense of security, and that means there’s a decrease in misbehaviour.
‘‘It’s very focused; there’s lots of time on task. You won’t see word searches and other time-wasting activities in our classrooms - all that’s gone. Now we use data to make decisions"
Mrs Davis says the parents understand what the school is trying to do and are very supportive. ‘‘We educate our parents through the newsletter and the P&C to make sure they know the instructional style of the school, so they’re familiar with it.
‘‘They can see that the expectations of what the children can achieve have risen, and they can see from the results that the children are more successful - and from an earlier age.’’
It’s not only the wellbeing and education of students that this rubs off on.
Ask anyone familiar with Wonga and they’ll say ‘‘great little school’’.
The school is still pretty new, having been built in 1999, and it enjoys lavish space, its modern classrooms - for six classes -well apart, a large oval and three well equipped play areas, two of them covered. All they long for is some more seating and tables in the lunch area.
Not surprisingly, the school is a drawcard for the community. Michelle Davis says, ‘‘I’ve had parents that say, ‘we’ve seen your website, we’ve seen your data, we’re bringing our child here’. And that’s great.’’
She says a good school can make the difference for families locating to the district, and families choose to move close to this school.
Wonga children kids happy to get the grades
Michelle Davis of Wonga State School