Gainesville Elementary is a 90-90-90 school, writes Samuel Freedman in the New York Times. Ninety percent of the students are non-white, 90 percent are poor and 90 percent meet Georgia’s state standards. All students who are behind “stay for an extra three hours of class each weekday and seven hours on Saturday.” Principal Shawn Arevalo McCollough, “a social reconstructionist by nature,” uses what are considered “conservative” education ideas.

He does not pull out children for separate bilingual classes, offering only “survival skills English” two hours a day for a maximum of eight weeks. He has reached out to Gainesville’s financial establishment, gaining a $20,000 grant for the Saturday school from Mar-Jac, one of the major poultry companies. He culled an additional $20,000 for the lengthened weekday classes by deferring purchases of textbooks and other materials.

Like the Gainesville school district as a whole, Mr. McCollough uses standardized tests to guide curriculum and hold teachers (and himself) publicly accountable. Every nine weeks, pupils in all five Gainesville elementary schools take tests that measure their knowledge of the various components of Georgia’s statewide curriculum. By analyzing the results, principals and teachers select the next round of lessons to address the weak points. Phonics and math drills figure prominently in the lessons. All the test results are posted in school hallways and on the district Web site – not just by school or by grade level but by the individual teacher’s name.

Tests show you where you’re at, says the principal. Diagnosing the problem is a step toward finding the solution.

Most of his students are the children of Mexican immigrants who came to Gainesville to work in chicken-processing plants. Their parents are poorly educated and speak little or no English. When these kids fail, it’s easy to come up with excuses. But they can learn.

About Joanne


  1. You know, where *I* went to school 7-12 students grades in all courses were posted BY NAME every 4 weeks. The top 10 students in each grade were posted on the front of the administration building.

    I think posting scores is an excellent idea.

  2. You know, where *I* went to school 7-12 students grades in all courses were posted BY NAME every 4 weeks.

    This is illegal in the USA nowadays under FERPA. It’s part of the Buckley Amendment. The Buckley Amendment is the leading cause of sudden paniced meetings in university IT offices: “Holy crap! We can’t do this/need to change that/must suck up to the Registrar’s office for a listing of students’ privacy options.” Buckley is the only congressman I know of whose name is regularly used as a database column.

    I hadn’t ever thought of posting the scores by teacher. That’s really quite clever.

    Yours truly,
    Jeffrey Boulier

  3. mike from oregon says:

    Jeff –

    A question, because I’m not familar with (seemingly) inane Buckley Amendment. Is it against this amendment to post scores assigning a number to a student instead of a name? In other words, Johnny is give (by the teacher or the school) a student or class ID number of 24 (easy to assign random numbers) – then post scores on the board showing that student number 24 acheived an “A” and student number 51 scored a “D”. Any idea if that violates this amendment?

    I too like the idea of frequent testing to see how the kids are absorbing the information. If I were a teacher, we’d have a daily quiz of a few questions, a weekly quiz of about 10 questions in addition to the normal tests given. I feel that a teacher who wants to stay on top of things – THIS is the only way. Granted, this would require enough extra work on the teacher that they would have to figure out a way to be able to quickly grade these extra tests. Essays would pretty much be out of the question, but multiple choice could be set up fairly easily (I think).