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September 22, 2005 Extra Credit
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September 22, 2005

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"All Children Can Learn At High Levels; This Is The Proof"

The No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools program honors public and private elementary and secondary schools that make significant progress closing the achievement gap or whose students consistently achieve at very high levels. The following are excerpts from a recent article in The Gazette (MD) highlighting a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School in Maryland:

"Viers Mill Elementary School, recognized last year as a county model, has now proven nationally that schools can overcome the challenges of lower-income students and their proficiency in English to achieve academic success. The U.S. Department of Education has honored Viers Mill with a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School of 2005 award, given to schools that make significant progress in closing the ‘achievement gap’ between well-off and disadvantaged students, or schools at which students achieve at very high levels.

"Impressively, Viers Mill qualifies on both counts, said J. Stephen O’Brien, director of Recognition Programs in the Office of Communications and Outreach with the U.S. Department of Education. O’Brien visited the school Tuesday. ‘It’s one of the few of the thousands of schools in the country that is as successful,’ O’Brien said. ‘There is almost no difference between [the test scores of] disadvantaged and middle class students — that’s almost unheard of.’"

"Of the more than 500 students at Viers Mill, 62 percent qualify for free and reduced-price meals and about 29 percent are in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. After years of consistent improvements, Viers Mill third- and fifth-graders made outstanding strides in 2004, outperforming all Maryland Title I schools in math and leading county Title I schools in reading, according to Maryland State Department of Education data. Federally funded Title I schools have a high population of low-income students. The school continued its success the next year, showing some of the best results among the most economically and linguistically challenged children, according to a 2005 MCPS report.

"Viers Mill staff and administrators credit the school’s success over the last years to a well-rounded community effort. That includes teachers, staff, parents and students, as well as private contributors who supported a rigorous academic curriculum and activities, such as mentoring and after-school reading programs for students, parent tutorials and family learning nights. It’s not any one of those contributing factors more than another, said Jenny Walker, a Viers Mill kindergarten teacher. Staff could not develop effective teaching strategies and curriculums without the school’s supportive administration, which provides the time and the training to get the job done.

"Walker said that support feeds into the energy that can be felt throughout the school. Such enthusiasm translates into positive attitudes and successful students, she said. ‘We believe that the kids can achieve anything and we believe as a staff that we can achieve it,’ Walker said. ‘That kind of feeds that positive energy that keeps us striving toward our goal.’"

"‘All children can learn at high levels; this is the proof,’ [Montgomery County superintendent of schools Jerry] Weast said.

"Students with limited English proficiency, a group that traditionally has difficulty with standardized tests, continued to make strides last year. About 90 percent of those grade 3 students scored proficient or above in reading and 85 percent scored at that level in math, according to the MCPS report. The reading gap among black and white students in grade 3 closed as both groups reached a proficiency rate of 100 percent."

The complete text of this article is available online.

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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: 09/23/2005