The following article from the Torrance [CA] Daily Breeze (10-23) recounts one California school’s successful effort to raise students academic achievement and meet the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act:
"Nestled on a wide, tree-dotted residential street near the Hawthorne airport, Cimarron Avenue Elementary School had worn the scarlet letters of education for two years when Carlen Powell arrived on campus in the spring of 2003.
"Parents, teachers and even students knew about Program Improvement — dubbed ‘P.I.’ or ‘the list’ — the federal government's roster of chronically low-performing public schools.
"To Powell, a first-time principal, the letters and the list were daily reminders that Cimarron students — about eight in 10 who are black and from low-income families — deserved a better opportunity….
"No one at the 450-student school was satisfied with 2003 proficiency levels of less than 16 percent in English, and less than 22 percent in math, Powell said….
"In the end, it would take a full-court press from an ever-changing staff, constant attention to standardized testing, laser-targeted tutoring and buy-in from teachers, students and parents to make the scores climb.
"While the strategies are common to many public schools operating in the high-stakes testing environment of No Child Left Behind, the federal accountability law passed in 2001, the looming consequences for Powell and Cimarron gave them a relentless focus.
"‘It was to get off that list,’ Powell said. "We did not want to go into year four. I thought about that every day.’
"Two years later, Cimarron stands out as a beacon of hope for other low-income schools attempting to boost student achievement and break out of Program Improvement.
"Since 2003, the number of students testing proficient and above in both English and math has more than doubled. The school's Academic Performance Index jumped 104 points last year alone to 720, not far off the state's goal of 800.
"Last month, the Hawthorne school was one of just three Los Angeles Unified [School District] campuses to be dropped from the Program Improvement list….
"This fall, when standardized test results came back, students, teachers and parents saw the benefits of their hard work.
"‘I started crying. I was crying for joy,’ said [fourth-grader] Kristen Hornback…. ‘I went up on math and English both. It just made me so excited.’"
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