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    Achievement schools rank 16th nationally; officials hoping to raise that to 35th by January

    Associated Press - The Republic -

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Schools in the state's Achievement School District are buckling down in an effort to raise low performance scores.

    The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/TUWiS4) reports that results from early testing showed students in the district scored in the 16th percentile nationally in reading and math. Superintendent Chris Barbic says even though the district knew students were coming in with low performance scores, the results were stunning.

    Barbic's job is to take Tennessee schools that rank in the bottom 5 percent and get them into the top 25 percent in five years. This year there are six schools in the district; next year there will be 13.

    To meet the goal, principals have reshuffled teachers, putting the strongest ones with the lowest-performers, grouping students by ability and bringing in more coffee and chocolate for staff.

    "We are using data to adjust," Barbic said. "That is what good leaders and good teachers do. That's a good best practice you see in lots of schools."

    For example, the last hour of school at Corning Elementary in Frayser is dedicated to intervention, which includes reviewing material that has already been taught.

    During recent session, Robyn Waters' class taught elements of reading while students next door were practicing double consonant sounds.

    "This is the whole reason why we have an extended day," Principal Jessica Jackson said. "We are building in this time to work on these skills."

    She says the scores were disappointing until she looked a little deeper and saw that younger students weren't that far behind. The larger gaps were with older students — Westside sixth-graders tested at a second-grade reading level.

    "That was actually encouraging for our teachers because it means it can be done, right? This is not a student problem. This is a teacher problem," Jackson said. "We are here because we believe we are the solution, and we can do this. There is nothing wrong with the children."

    The goal is to have 35 percent of students at grade level by January, when they retake the Measuring Academic Progress test. By the end of the year, educators hope that 70 percent of students will reach grade level.


    Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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