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December 2, 2003, Extra Credit
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December 2, 2003
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"Flexibility Is The Key Word At Russell Elementary" In Northwest Montana

Following are excerpts from a recent article in The Daily Inter Lake:

"Flexibility is the key word at Russell Elementary under a new schoolwide Title I designation this year. Flexibility to teach all students at their learning level. Flexibility to blend federal and local school money to serve all students in all areas. Flexibility to schedule reading and math teaching time to encourage the best progress in each child. 'We're learning this together,' Russell Principal Darren Schlepp said as the first- and second-grade classes finished their second week in the new program. For an hour to 75 minutes every day, eight or 10 students split off into each of several flexible skills groups to work on reading and writing."

"Federal rules say that if 40 percent or more of a school's students qualify for lower lunch rates, the entire school can be designated a [schoolwide] Title I school. The benefits are huge. All skill levels—remedial, average and accelerated—can be targeted with the fuller funding, and that money can be blended with the rest of the school's local block money. 'We're serving all children,' Schlepp said of the 313 students in Russell this fall. 'We're targeting the non-proficient kids for No Child Left Behind ... while maybe the Title I aide can work on an accelerated project with other kids, for example. We can write grants in the future,' he said. 'We have the general block grant and have some federal money. We can pool those,' rather than segregating the Title I money to target only those who need extra help. 'We can share those as long as we focus on what the kids need,' he said."

"This is Schlepp's third year at Russell School. In his first year he surveyed staff and parents, then last year he suggested it would be an ideal time for a schoolwide plan that not only complies with the No Child Left Behind requirement for a districtwide five-year plan but also spells out a five-year educational plan specifically for Russell. ... And this only scratches the surface of what Schlepp and his staff mined from their year of teamwork. In it, they identified Russell students' strengths and weaknesses. 'Overall our kids score very well,' he said. 'It turned out math computation was a focus point so we set up flexible skills math support.' Literacy also is emphasized, with much of the attention poured into early readers in kindergarten, first and second grades. Thus, flexible skills groups were established."

The complete article was published in the December 2003 edition of the Daily Inter Lake. It is no longer available online.

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Last Modified: 07/28/2006