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

Posted by Nicola in News, Research

Teachers Urged to Adopt Targeted Teaching

Dr Goss with Nicola Carr-White

Schools are urged to embrace “targeted teaching” to improve student knowledge according to the findings of the latest education report from the Grattan Institute “Targeted Teaching: How Better Use of Data can Improve Student Learning” by Dr P. Goss & J. Hunter.

What a pleasure to discuss the new Mastery Learning Folder strategy with Dr Goss recently. The strategy  provides a safety net for students through individual remediation of foundational classroom learning whilst providing an organizational format that facilitates a tailored learning load and pace of learning. As a homework tool, the folders enables all students to receive targeted remediation through harnessing the power of parents – see their feedback below.

I welcome further discussion – please get in touch or a add a comment below!

Lunch with Dr Pete Goss

Related Articles:

Video: What are Mastery Learning Folders?

Teachers urged to adopy target teaching to address curriculum – The West Australian

Teaching the Digital Natives – Australian Financial Review

“… our daughter LOVES her Mastery Learning Folder and is always eager to retrieve it to practise her words every night. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well her reading has come along since using the  folder and would definitely recommend it to others. Thanks for letting us be a part of your trial and good luck with what has proven to be a great program :)” Christine, Parent

“We absolutely love the folders that you have created. The children and the parents are finding them most useful for the kid’s flashcards. What we also find very helpful is that the pockets are wider and the design of them is brilliant  especially the hard back cover so that no spills can soak through to the work and also because you can see where the children are up to and what they have achieved with the pockets being labeled and the children can also see what they have achieved.” Lisa, Parent

“The learning experience was very enjoyable. My daughter enjoyed moving the words along in the folder and could see her progress. Also she loved the stickers on completion of each day.” Lorena, Parent

“We did the big test on the girls’ words today and they both got 100% for the first time. Happy days!!!  Thanks for creating such a great tool.” Leanne, Homeschooling Mum

Further Feedback

Posted by Nicola in News, Research

Dr Pete Goss Grattan Institute

Today I had a wonderful lunch at the Riverbank Estate, Swan Valley, with Dr Pete Goss, researcher and leading authority on targeted teaching (see article links below). I am very pleased to share that he recognised my new Mastery Learning Folder strategy as a valid remediation intervention for foundational learning concepts.
I went through my history of using the strategy from starting with the same content for each child in the old manilla folders through to the modified strategy of differentiated content, learning load and learning time facilitated by the new mastery learning folder design. I also shared the results of the first pilot school study being conducted this year. He suggested several avenues to pursue for research opportunities and kindly offered his support in this process – very happy with that!


Dr Goss with Nicola Carr-White

Recent articles related to Dr Goss:

“Targeted Teaching: How Better Use of Data can Improve Student Learning” by Dr P. Goss & J. Hunter.

Targeted Teaching in the news:

The West Australian
Newspaper Clipping
Online Version

Australian Financial Review
Online Version

Posted by Nicola in Endorsements, News, Research

Mastery Learning Folders: A New Take on a Traditional Strategy

“Great teaching will no longer mean masterful delivery of the year level curriculum, but extending the skills and knowledge of every student in every class, regardless of their starting point.” 1

In the past Mastery Learning Folders were often used to assist students learn sight words or phonics, but they have much more potential than that! They are an organisational and educational tool that can be used as a safety net to ensure that every student receives the remediation content they need. Based on class assessments  or post-testing using Flashcard Club content, students can work with their parents 10 minutes each homework night. At the next teacher test, get ready to be very excited about the results – you will be ticking off your records left, right and centre.

The difference is that Mastery Learning Folders provide a convenient way to present learning remediation, they allow teachers to determine the learning load by regulating how many flashcards are in circulation, and the pace of learning is regulated – each time a flashcard reaches the test pocket, a new one is transferred from the store pocket. This learning tool is visual and targeted. See the Mastery Learning Folder page for more details.


1 Goss, P., Hunter, J., Romanes, D., Parsonage, H., 2015, Targeted teaching: how better use of data can improve student learning, Grattan Institute 

Report: Targeted teaching: how better use of data can improve student learning | Grattan Institute

Posted by Nicola in News, Research

Article: End of a Chapter

“Teacher Comes to End of a Chapter”
The West Australian January 29, 2015 by Bethany Hiatt

“Rosalie Hamilton, 75, has seen teaching methods come and go during a career spanning half a century.

The Year 1 teacher closed her classroom door at South Lake Primary School for good last month after more than 50 years of teaching every age group from kindergarten to Year 12.

‘I never tire of teaching reading,’ she said.’That’s my passion. I love seeing the little flowers open as they learn.’

Mrs Hamilton said that in the 1960’s teachers used phonics – the relationship between letters and sounds – to teach reading, but that was later frowned on.

‘The idea was that children would just pick it up by reading,’ she said. ‘We went through phases of  look and say and learning from literature. We still have that, but I think that before you get to that you have to have this really basic bedrock of know ing sounds and knowing digraphs.’

She is pleased the pendulum has swung back towards phonics.”

Posted by Nicola in News

Report: Back to Basics

Sunday Times October 12, 2014 by Samantha Maiden (National Political Editor)

“A major review of Australia’s national curriculum, to be released today, calls for a ‘back to basics’ focus in English using phonics, or sounding out words, to help children learn to read.”

“Fiona Mueller, another reviewer of the English curriculum, said teachers were struggling.”

” ‘The English curriculum mistakenly adopts a model made up of, ‘a little bit of phonics and a little bit of whole language’, and the curriculum is not explicit or systematic’, the report states. ‘While there is no doubt that the English curriculum deals with phonic and phonemic awareness in a more detailed way there is room for improvement.’
Early childhood should be treated differently and focus on a back-to-basics approach of literacy and numeracy.”

Posted by Nicola in News

Article: Push for Phonics

The West Australian 7th July 2014 by Daniel Mercer

“Children would be taught to read and write using an intensive phonics-based system under a future Labor government, Mark McGowan declared yesterday.
Seizing on growing support for more traditional teaching methods, the State Opposition Leader said he wanted to introduce so-called explicit instruction across more WA schools.
Under the back-to-basics method teachers explain and demonstrate the sounds represented by letters and work with individual students to help their understanding.
Stressing that explicit, or ‘direct’, instruction was not the same as rote learning, Mr McGowan claimed the practice had achieved ‘remarkable success’ in trials at WA schools, including Ballajura Primary School, where he said literacy rates had improved markedly.”

Posted by Nicola in News