Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lawnton Rocks!

Pine Rivers Press, September 14, 2011
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Subtitle:  Lawnton State School and Mt Maria College Petrie were among 19 schools in the north coast region to record big improvements in the 2011 NAPLAN test.  The results were revealed to the schools on Friday. 

Lawnton State School and Mt Maria College Petrie have improved the most in the 2011 NAPLAN results, testing students in reading, writing, numeracy, grammar and punctuation.

Education Minister Cameron Dick credited the introduction of Prep for the improved results across the State, especially in Year 3.

Lawnton State School principal Kylie Smith said teachers, students and parents also deserved credit.

"This year's grade 3 is the first cohort that were part of Prep so that may be part of the improvement but as an entire school we looked at the areas that we were strugglin in and really focussed on those," Ms Smith said.

While the greatest improvement was in Year 5, the school recorded improvements in all three year levels tested - Year 3, 5 and 7.

To be fair, the school needed improvement. 

In 2010, the school was ranked either below or substantially below the Australian schools' average in all five testing areas.

So were all but one parochial school in our area.  (And that was ranked as barely average.)

What impresses me, beyond the improvement itself, is the transparency of the system, where I was able to go online ( and look at the rankings and the ability and willingness of educators to evaluate themselves, see and ACKNOWLEDGE THE NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT and then do something about it.

The teachers and administrators have worked really really hard. 

But you can't improve if you don't admit there is a problem in the first place.

This frankness, honesty, and willingness to admit there is need for improvement is the basis for the improvement.  (Try getting ANY national test results out of a German school - even on your own child - it is all classifed as state secret apparently.)

The willingness to work longer hours, to work harder in those longer hours and to try new programs....the willingness to try something new...oh, heck, you all know where I am going with this.

Who knew I deserved a school like this for my children?!

Really.  This is the kind of school my children get to go to.  (And the message on the board was posted in May, long before the national test results came back.)
It's attitude like this that gets the job done.

I asked Ryan why she thought we were all so much happier here than in our old school in Germany. 

She very thoughtfully came up with three reasons.  (Negating my need to worry about her processing and synthesizing abilities!)

1.  They help me here when I need it.
2.  We have one teacher for all of our main subjects.
3.  We aren't stuck in the same classroom all day.

Eh.  Every now and then we can get her to knuckle down and read.

1.  In Germany Ryan was ignored and overlooked.  She was quiet and didn't make trouble.  And so noone bothered to help her even though it was obvious from at least second grade on that she needed it.  Her classwork was half-finished and incorrect.  She had no idea what they had done all day.  And yet that was all seen as her own fault, for not being more mature to get it done.  When I tried to talk to the teachers about helping her, I was seen as overambitious and meddling.

 The entire class of around 30 students was taught at one - admittedly academically high - level.  Tough luck if you couldn't keep up.  Not every child can go to university you know.  This, of course decided by second grade.  No special help for those who needed it, no extra challenges for those who were ahead and bored.  No small group work at all.  (This is seen as unfair.  All the kids should be treated equally - interpreted as EXACTLY THE SAME - even though each one has individual strengths, weaknesses and needs.)  This system is so horrendous and outdated that the United Nations has officially cited it as a violation of human rights.  No kidding.

2.  From first grade on the kids in Germany had at least four teachers for German, Maths, English, Religion let alone Sports and Music.  When I tried to talk to Ryan's third grade teacher about her problems in math she HAD NO IDEA how Ryan was doing in math.  NONE AT ALL.  This despite the fact that I had been asking for help for Ryan for three years and could see the correlation between her reading and comprehension difficulties and her comprehension problems in math.  NO ONE KNEW.  NO ONE CARED.  Not all kids can go to university you know.

3.  The school in Altdorf had no library.  How unbelievable is that?  There were 30 computers in a computer lab.  For over 400 kids.  No computer interface in the classrooms.  The kids sat at their desks all day.  Here the kids alternate serious maths and writing time with trips to the library and computers.  (They also have computers in all the classroom and the teachers can and do access the internet for lessons.)  The large, grassy sports fields - and the climate to use them year round - are an admitted luxury.  As are the gardening and cooking classes.  The music program.  The choir.  The interschool sports and scholastic competitions. 

Poor Aussie kids - FORCED to read and write at 5!
Funny enough, Ryan and Andrew both feel they are learning MORE here than they did in Germany.  To be fair, I believe it is just a change in emphasis.  Since the kids don't have to spend as much time learning to form their letters perfectly (they do work on it but not to the same all-exclusive extent as in Germany) or rewriting their essays four times (talk about taking all the joy out of writing) they are able to spend more time on science and history and social studies and the world around them.

I'm just so proud of our little school.

And while I know I need to get over the anger I have towards the German system, it does make me sad that children I know and love and Germany are stuck in it. 

A culture of change.  An ability to acknowledge faults and seek improvement.

It'd also take BUTTLOADS of taxpayer money to overhaul a decrepit system that still teaches the kids NOTHING in the years before first grade and then only teaches the kids part-time once they reach school-age.  With no teachers' aides, with no improvements in the schools...

Our school isn't perfect. 

Lawnton State School pride

But it is still paradise.  Thank you Lawnton State School for making each one of my children special and for helping each one of them to grow into the best people they can be.

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