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December 17, 2004 Extra Credit
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December 17, 2004

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"If You Don’t Teach It, It’s For Sure They Won’t Get It"

The following are excerpts from an article in today’s The Indianapolis Star highlighting a school that is proving that low-income students can achieve at high levels:

"Third-graders at IPS’ School 39 on the Near Eastside face statewide exams in nine months, and there's no time to spare. So Thursday, on the cusp of winter break, Jennifer Fisher’s students kept at their lessons. They read a mix of short stories, with each child tackling one matched to his or her ability, then answered questions about them. Fisher aimed the session at weaknesses in reading comprehension revealed by this fall's Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus.

"Experts and research for decades have shown students like those at School 39, where a majority come from low-income or poor backgrounds, are less likely to succeed on tests and in school than their more affluent peers. But an Indianapolis Star analysis shows School 39 stands out among a handful of Central Indiana schools that overcame that trend. On the latest ISTEP results, the passing rate of that school's students emerged more than 37 percentage points better than the students’ income level would have suggested. Their 75 percent passing rate is well above the state average, 63 percent."

"For the school at 1733 Spann Ave., the obstacles are clear: Four out of every five students qualify for free lunches, an indication their families are poor. Over the course of the year, many students come and go, making it hard for them to make steady educational progress. Yet for two years, more than 70 percent of third-graders have passed both the math and reading sections of the ISTEP. That success comes as a result, school officials say, of a range of programs, including all-day kindergarten, GED classes for parents and added aides in classrooms like Fisher's. ‘Instead of being accidental, we are intentional in what we are doing,’ said Principal Linda Burchfield, who started at School 39 in 2002 after 11 years at another IPS school.

"Principals at several Marion County schools that achieved better-than-expected passing rates agreed on common ingredients: a strong teaching staff that works together, a constant focus on standards and high expectations for students. Jonathan Plucker, an associate professor at Indiana University and director of the Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy, said such standout schools show progress that should be applauded. ‘All of these schools are at or above the state average,’ Plucker said. ‘That’s impressive.’"

"At School 39, teachers work to be sure youngsters can connect with their lessons. Fisher, 30, has her students add and subtract using calendars, clocks and money, and write letters to pen pals in Florida. ‘The more engaged they are,’ Fisher said, ‘the more they're going to come away with.’"

"Increased federal and state standards have forced such schools to focus more on testing. Plucker, the Indiana University professor, and several principals said standards also have made educators pay more attention to every single student’s needs. One thing is certain, Burchfield said: ‘If you don’t teach it, it’s for sure they won't get it.’"

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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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Last Modified: 04/08/2008