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March 14, 2005 Extra Credit
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March 14, 2005

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"It Takes The Whole Team"

The following are excerpts from an article in today’s Mail Tribune (OR) highlighting an Oregon elementary school that is proving low-income and minority students can achieve at high levels:

"White City Elementary students and teachers have discovered something important, … — that when the whole school works together, every child can master reading and math. A schoolwide reading program with lots of work in small groups and a focus on improving student attendance and behavior has helped boost performance on state tests — and attracted officials’ attention, Principal Jay Sparks said.

"State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo has recognized the school as one of eight in the state where students who are poor or minorities thrive. She awarded the school the Celebrating Student Success Award, a new award honoring schools that close the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students and between poor students and their peers, a state Department of Education release said. The award, which includes a $2,000 grant, will be presented at a conference next month in Portland."

"In the past two years, White City Elementary has earned a ‘strong’ rating on the Oregon school report card and met achievement targets under the federal No Child Left Behind education law. [It has] accomplished that despite the fact that 76 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, a federal measure of poverty, Sparks reported. Of its 467 students, 35 percent are Hispanic and 30 percent are learning English as a second language. Nearly half of the students come from single-parent or blended-family households. About 30 percent of the kids move during the year.

"‘Home life is not good for some of these kids,’ said Kim Saiz, an instructional assistant. ‘School is a safe place. We don’t just care about the scores; we care about the kids.’ As ‘the playground lady,’ Saiz is one of the first people kids turn to when they need new shoes, a warm coat or just a good listener at school. She’s also co-chairwoman of the school’s leadership team, a group of parents, teachers, administrators and other school employees that focuses on improving student performance.

"‘It’s the schoolwide things that make the difference,’ Sparks said. ‘It takes the whole team.’

"White City Elementary has adopted a reading program that tests all students and places them in small groups with peers of similar ability, said [reading teacher Allison] Chenoweth, who works with struggling readers. … The school also set an attendance goal of 95 percent, and teachers, parents — even the sheriff’s department in the case of some chronic absentees — work together to make sure kids are in school. ‘They can’t learn if they aren’t here,’ Sparks said, noting that attendance has risen from 92.6 percent when he became principal six years ago to 95 percent so far this year."

The complete text of this article is available online.

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Last Modified: 11/19/2007