The following are excerpts from an article in todays The Detroit News highlighting U.S. Department of Education General Counsel Brian Joness recent visit to Thomas-Gist Academy in the Detroit area. Jones honored the school for drastically improving student achievement under No Child Left Behind:
"After being rated a failure by the Michigan Department of Education for the past two years, the Thomas-Gist Academy in Inkster got a surprise visit from a Washington D.C. official this month. But instead of scolding the 373-student charter school for flunking the requirements of No Child Left Behind, President Bushs strict education reform law, Brian Jones, general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education, came to find out exactly what the school had done to turn itself around.
"The school was among 488 of Michigans 2,622 elementary and middle schools that got bad grades on the states school report cards in 2003. Fewer than 100 of those schools made it off the failing list this year, and Thomas-Gist was one of them"
"At Thomas-Gist, students at all grade levels made significant gains on standardized tests during the past several years. In 1999, 3.7 percent of the schools seventh graders received satisfactory scores on the reading portion of the MEAP, but 65 percent met Michigan standards for English Language Arts in 2003."
We tested our students and their scores were very, very low, said Celestine Sanders, principal of the school, where 100 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Then we all got together.
"Improving the school meant hiring more experienced teachers and forming a united front among the administration, teaching staff, parents and grandparents. The school, which houses elementary and middle school kids in two buildings, serves families from nine Downriver communities. We had to stop teaching in isolation, and start teaching as a bloc, Sanders said. We found out a lot of our students were reading so far behind their grade level and we knew that their social studies, science and math all depended on that so our concentration was on the reading."
"The list of Michigan schools failing federal achievement standards is shrinking. This year, 390 were on the failing list. State and local officials credit a tighter focus on what educators teach and a better ability to spot students weaknesses."
"Virginia Gaines of Detroit said her three grandchildren have experienced success at Thomas-Gist Academy. Theyve improved every year theyve been here, Gaines said. They are able to have confidence in themselves and show what they can do."
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