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February 28, 2005 Extra Credit
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February 28, 2005

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February 25
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"My Daughter Has Improved A Lot"

The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Journal News (NY) highlighting how a Yonkers, NY elementary school is working to close the achievement gap. This is just one example of the many schools around the country demonstrating that all students can learn, no matter their race, income or background:

"Fourth-grader Tiajha Battles, determined to pass the first round of state tests, did everything she could to prepare for the tough exams. The Foxfire School faculty did everything they could to help. She stayed after school three times a week for extra tutoring. She came to class on Saturdays. She worked with a reading specialist. Her mother, Tara Heath, attended workshops so she could learn to help her struggling child achieve. The result astonished the fourth-grader and her mom. ‘There's a real focus on getting the kids to know what they need to know for the tests,’ Heath said. ‘With the targeted instruction, my daughter has improved a lot.’

"Across Yonkers, thousands of students like Tiajha have moved up the academic ladder as the district infused new programs to boost achievement for all students. The new programs and hard work by teachers, students and parents have resulted in higher test scores and the closing of an academic achievement gap."

"The significance of Yonkers' achievement at the moment is that it has effectively improved the academic standing of thousands of students, moving them up from the lowest rung on the academic ladder, and bringing many to a point where they are proficient at grade level. The change has been most notable among minority students, more likely to be furthest behind when state testing began."

"… [I]n 1999 one in four students at Foxfire scored in the lowest level on the state's fourth-grade English exam. Five years later, that proportion plunged to one in 25. That kind of change has helped Foxfire emerge as one of Yonkers' most dramatic success stories.

"Boosting achievement started with changing the culture. James Colasacco, Foxfire's principal since 2001, began by holding meetings of teachers on the grade level, to make sure they were using common teaching strategies. In 2002, he brought in literacy specialists and hired a ‘coach’ to model teaching strategies for new teachers. In 2004, the staff focused on aligning curriculum from grade to grade, so teachers could rely on what students were taught the year before. They began using test results to determine where students need help and to which small groups lagging students would be assigned."

"As the culture has changed, and teachers have become increasingly proficient at focusing on the state standards, students have responded. Like Tiajha Battles, they've put in extra effort. And they've enjoyed the results. Fourth-grader Steven Gonzalez, 10, said he likes math. He even looks forward to learning multiplication and division. ‘It's cool how numbers work,’ said Gonzalez. …"

The complete text of this article is available online.

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Last Modified: 01/31/2008