The following was written by Terry Garner, principal of Heyburn Elementary School in Heyburn, Idaho. It appeared in the South Idaho Press (10-1-05):
"Much has been said about the No Child Left Behind Act, commonly referred to as NCLB, its requirement of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the requirement of ‘highly qualified teachers and paraprofessionals,’ and the requirement that all children must be tested, etc.
"I, like many other educators, probably don't know enough about the law itself, but I do know how it has affected our school, Heyburn Elementary. I would like to comment on our experience with NCLB.
"Heyburn Elementary, along with other schools in our state, directly benefits from NCLB funding because we are a Reading First School, which is one of Idaho's strategies to implement NCLB. Last year as a new Reading First School, our faculty discussed together the changes that would be made.
"Led by Reading First guidelines, we developed a completely new school schedule which includes an uninterrupted 90 minute reading period. During this reading block, teachers focus on fundamental reading instruction with the whole class. They deliver the reading program as precisely as possible in order to gain its full effectiveness….
"Reading First funds also provided the opportunity to have a reading coach to help us do our jobs better. In addition, we were able to hire national trainers who periodically came to our school and helped us do this job of teaching reading better than we ever had before. What a great help!…
"We probably worked harder than ever before; doing things we'd done before, but with more expertise and confidence. We met together weekly as staff members to ‘cuss and discuss’ our challenges. We scrutinized data generated from familiar as well as new and unfamiliar tests. We learned that too many of our students were not developing basic reading skills at home or as automatic as we had once thought.
"We backed up; we dug out more time to help them learn. It was the hardest work we'd ever done, but it was gratifying and rewarding. Our students seemed to catch the spirit as well. I believe they tried harder and did better than they ever had before.
"We were unsure about what the results of our labors would be. What were the results? Just a few years ago only 50% of the students scored at a proficient level on state tests. But this year 72% of the students were proficient. That met the NCLB goal; our school made AYP! We feel even more validated as tests are being given this fall. Student skills appear to have held.
"This Reading First journey has been an inspiring experience for our students, for our teachers, and for me as the principal. Now our goal this year is to do a little better. Our goal more than ever is that ‘no child will be left behind’. Thanks Reading First."
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