Phonics, principals put schools ahead

From The West Australian 9/12/15

Once again the research indicates that a structured synthetic phonics program produces excellent student results …

The article:

“A focus on teaching phonics and good leadership are key to improving school results, an Education Department report reveals.

The department commissioned former University of WA education dean and deputy vice-chancellor Bill Louden to investigate teaching practices at nine public primary schools which showed consistent improvement on national literacy and numeracy test results.

The report found three characteristics common to all nine schools.

They included reading programs based on explicit teaching of phonics — the relationship between letters and sounds — in the early years, well-developed school improvement plans and stable, long-term leadership with principals averaging 12 years in their school.

“All of the schools were using synthetic phonics and 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been the case,” Emeritus Professor Louden toldThe West Australian .

“I think there is a lot more phonics taught these days than there was before but from my point of view, there is no excuse not to begin with synthetic phonics with small children, otherwise you’re just waiting for them to fail.”

The report said most of the schools in the study had developed school-wide plans on what and how to teach, instead of leaving those decisions to individual teachers.

Almost all the schools had implemented explicit instruction methods for teaching reading, spelling and maths.

Many were using tightly-scripted direct instruction programs using text books and other supplied materials so that teachers could focus on their teaching instead of lesson planning.

Many of the schools had also made significant investments in teachers’ professional development.

Statewide services executive director Lindsay Hale said the project was designed to give the department a better understanding of the conditions in place at high-achieving schools and provide case studies for other schools to examine.

Mr Hale said director-general Sharyn O’Neill had long called for teachers to use explicit teaching approaches and for phonics to have a key place in students’ literacy learning in the early years.

“This report shows those methods are working well among the schools which Professor Louden investigated,” he said.”

The West Australian