Wonga’s lit­tle win­ners

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

THUMBS UP:

Wonga chil­dren kids happy to get the grades

PRIN­CI­PAL:

Michelle Davis of Wonga State School

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