The following are excerpts from the Marietta Daily Journal (Georgia) highlighting U.S. Department of Education General Counsel Brian Jones's visit to Argyle Elementary School, where he honored the school for incredible student achievement gains:
"Last month's announcement that Argyle Elementary School in Smyrna posted the largest gains in student testing achievement in Georgia caught the attention of federal education officials. U.S. Department of Education General Counsel Brian Jones, who toured Argyle on Thursday, said the school was placed on the department's 'must see' list for a nationwide tour of schools like Argyle to learn what they did to succeed.
"According to the Georgia Department of Education, Argyle students improved their overall performance on the state's Criterion Referenced Competency Test by almost 38 percent for the 2003-2004 year. The school topped a list of 30 schools in the state that showed the most improvement on state assessments."
"'We're celebrating a success story,' Jones said. 'What we have here is a school that excelled against the odds. It has a large population of minorities in the lower economic category. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.' Jones referred to what he called 'the soft bigotry of low expectations,' which he said he finds unacceptable. 'There is a sense that we ought to have different expectations for some kids,' he said.
"Credit for the success went to former Principal Selena Andrews, who transferred from Argyle to Riverside Intermediate School in Mableton this year. 'I came with a vision in mind to focus first and foremost on developing a relationship with staff, students and the community,' Ms. Andrews said of her strategy. She did this by keeping her door open for parents, taking children home when they were stranded at school and helping them on an individual basis. 'You have to build trust first before anything can happen and after building that trust we began to look at instruction and the best practices that could make a difference,' she said.
"Ms. Andrews said she included the staff in the decision-making process while holding them to high expectations. 'My teachers and I have a bond,' she said. 'They could come to me for professional [reasons] as well as personal ones.' She said she couldn't wait to implement some of her successful strategies at her new school.
"As for Jones, he said other schools could also benefit for the same approach to education. 'This is really a school that the rest of the country can learn from,' he said."
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