Dromana Secondary College, which springs from a low socio-economic area, has improved its VCE scores 10 consecutive times to achieve its highest median score of 32, out of a mark of 50 in 2017.
In 2018 the school outperformed all other local schools having more than 90 per cent of its Year 12 students achieving above the state mean.
It marked an amazing improvement, taking the college from being ranked 334 in 2012, to 111 among 533 schools doing the VCE in 2018.
Two of Australia’s prominent newspapers, The Herald Sun and Sydney Morning Herald, cited the college’s achievements.
The Age newspaper’s analysis, based on a decade of VCE performance data, included Dromana Secondary College among its 10 “standout schools” that had improved their results over this time.
When principal Alan Marr arrived at the college in 2008, he persuaded staff that they needed to focus on educational achievement and led a culture of change.
He set about creating a growth mindset for every staff member, parent and child that established a shared language and a high-functioning expert team.
“Our students are challenged, motivated and engaged by interesting, exciting and relevant curriculum that caters for their needs,” he told staff and parents.
“Our focus continues to be delivering the best academic outcomes for all our students.”
Marr says that he believed one of the greatest strengths of his college was the positive relationship between staff and students.
Assistant principal, Chad Ambrose, motivated staff using growth coaching principles. It was a powerful strategy for reversing the downward trend in the college’s literacy and numeracy performance.
He coached and mentored staff and students to transfer their high expectations, explicit goals and constructive feedback from senior school settings to junior classes.
Teachers gave students a series of progressive achievement tests. They used a diagnostic process to identify each student’s weaknesses and developed customised improvement plans.
Parents saw an amazing turnaround when students’ numeracy and literacy progress greatly exceeded the state’s mean scores.
The college also uses a Jump Start program to coach children so that they can transition seamlessly through school.
Teachers set the stage for students to excel in art forms at an annual Wakakirri competition, based on the theme of homelessness. A senior school student made her mark by planning the choreography and costume design in a production that won six awards for best story, public speaking, dance, construction, project and creative costumes.
Staff speak with pride of being the only school in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula where secondary students can display their fashions, creatively, at an annual peninsula teenage fashion and art exhibition.
The unique project has lasted for a decade and inspires students from all Peninsula schools to enter original designs, thus nurturing budding designers. The competition is judged by fashion representatives and local designers with an eye for new talent.
Associate principal of the senior school, Simon Jones, says that enhancement programs were a wonderful opportunity to engage students after school in a range of high-interest programs like aerobics, sailing and STEAM.
The school’s remoteness from the CBD means that parents played an active role in transporting students and supporting their children.
Jones said that student leadership was important, and was evident through the prominent roles that students played in all school functions.
He notes that a former student had joined teachers as a mentor for aerobics, and worked as a support coach with students.
The college’s learning enhancement acceleration program (LEAP) caters for students in senior school. Teachers encourage students to study for the Victorian Baccalaureate or do a university enhancement subject through Monash and Deakin universities.
If growth is about unlocking potential, this college has the key.