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September 12, 2003, Extra Credit
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September 12, 2003
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At Evansville Elementary In Wyoming, "The Thrill Of Success Is Infectious"

As reported by the Casper Star-Tribune, Evansville Elementary School "was informed last year that it had failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress in the 2001-02 school year." The principal of the school described the news as "devastating" and morale at the school suffered. But as seen in the following excerpt from the Casper Star-Tribune, the school is already on its way up:

"It was after they received the bad news that Evansville began evaluating better reading and math programs that would serve their students the best. The school implemented a guided math program and a similar guided reading program that enabled it to meet the state standards last school year.

"'We brought in a reading program called 'Literacy First' that the teachers had spent the previous summer training for,' [Evansville Principal Donna Mathern] said. 'We have done something so unique with math that I just think we're ahead of the game over everybody in it.'

"The math program tailors instruction to individual students, teaching them at the level they are and growing as they get better. It parallels the guided reading approach, she said, in that students progress at their own speed rather than being tied to the general progress of the majority of students in their classroom.

"'Too many students are in classes where there are some that are more advanced than their grade level and some that aren't meeting their grade level,' Mathern said, 'so what happens is the teacher just shoots for the middle and hopes to get everyone.'

"The progress that Evansville is enjoying is a testament to a school that proactively found a solution to its shortcomings, according to Joel Dvorak, the district's associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

"'I think that Donna Mathern and her teachers have done a great job of focusing their instruction to help kids meet standards,' Dvorak said. 'The fact that they are differentiating their instruction in math makes wonderful sense. It meets the needs of all the learners in the building and I just applaud the energy and the effort that Donna and her staff have put toward that instruction.'

"Just because certain programs have worked for Evansville, however, doesn't mean they will work as simple solutions to every school, Dvorak stressed.

"'You could take these approaches and just put them into a school, but it wouldn't work without the level of dedication it takes to make them successful,' Dvorak said. 'You only get out of the program what you put in to it and it takes a concerted effort from everyone.'

"That concerted effort, for Evansville, has seemed to pay off. The thrill of success is infectious at the school and it has made the kids excited to back in the classroom, Mathern said.

"'One good thing is that some of our kids this year came back and they are really pumped,' Mathern said. 'They said, 'You know, I did so good last year and I'm going to do even better this year,' because they had success last year. I had kids knocking at my window for a week or two before school started, telling me, 'I can't wait for school to start.'"

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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