Burlington, Dawson-Bryant schools make grade

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Two Lawrence County schools are showing that students in low-income areas are not only meeting state and national standards - they're exceeding them.

Dawson-Bryant Elementary and Burlington Elementary have been named Ohio State Superintendent's Schools of Promise by the Ohio Department of Education. They are two of only 31 schools in the state to receive this designation based on 2003 State and Local Report Card data.

These schools met or exceeded the following criteria: at least half of the students met low-income criteria, 75 percent or more of the students passed the proficiency tests in mathematics or reading, at least 75 percent of the low-income students passed the tests, at least 75 percent of the students from the major ethnic/racial groups in the school passed the tests and the school met the goals of Adequate Yearly Progress under federal guidelines for all of the above groups of students, including those with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency.

Email newsletter signup

"We're trying everything in the world that we can," said Mark Christian, principal of Burlington Elementary.

As time goes by, old proficiency tests become available, Christian said. As those old tests are examined, schools have a better idea of what is expected from students and staff. Data from those tests has been used to determine where the school's weaknesses are, with both individual students and groups. Reading comprehension and measurement portions of the mathematics testing were areas of weakness.

Christian gives credit to the South Point Local Schools' curriculum director who helped align curriculum so that students were not repeating certain subject matter when they reached higher grade levels. Tutoring in both the morning and after school is also available to every child, he said. Currently about 50 percent of the students are involved in the 21st Century After School Mall program's tutoring.

Technology has also played a part in Burlington Elementary's success. Recently, the school received 25 new Dell computers that are in a lab. At least once, if not twice, a week students have access to reading and mathematics programs in the lab in which someone is there to work with them. The students love the computers, he said.

"They don't fear anything," he said. "Big people are afraid to mess things up, but they just charge right in."

One major recent change in education, the federal No Child Left Behind Act, has changed the focus of school performance. While past measurements tended to gauge whether or not the majority of students were doing well, No Child Left Behind means that schools will focus on everyone.

Matthew Watts, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at the school, said keeping up with new standards is very challenging for teachers. Providing extra intervention means that he and other teachers will often work with students after school and at lunch. Because students in special education classes will be held accountable for what other students have to learn, he has begun team-teaching with a special education teacher at the school.

"I'm very pleased to know that all of that hard work has paid off," Watts said.

The 21 Century After School Mall program and other federal dollars also allowed Dawson-Bryant Elementary to provide more intervention, said Principal Eric Holmes. The school also brought in retired teachers, additional staff and more substitutes to either provide individual help to students who needed it, and the substitutes would also fill in for teachers while they would provide individual help. Holmes said he also sought help from Symmes Valley Elementary Principal Bob Harris and Fairland East Elementary Principal Teresa Johnson because of their success in improving scores.

In grades 3-5, the school also began "departmentalization", which is in its fourth year at the school. Instead of having one teacher for all subjects, the students have a different teacher for each.