Six years after earning an F (changed to a D on appeal) on Florida’s state test, a high-poverty school in Pinellas, Florida has earned two A’s in a row and expects a third this year, reports the St. Petersburg Times. Blanton Elementary isn’t alone.
Nearly 1 in 4 elementary schools across Florida with poverty levels above 70 percent have improved as much if not more than Blanton in the past five years, a St. Petersburg Times review of FCAT scores shows.
Blanton’s F “was probably the best thing that happened to us,” says Principal Deborah Turner.
Her teachers started digging deeper into test data, to see in more detail where their kids were falling short — and to tailor more specific remedies.
Now, more than ever, they adopted Turner’s find-a-way mind-set.
“I tell my staff that we cannot go and fix the homes. That’s not your job,” Turner says. “The job is, the day your child arrives in front of you, pretend you’re it. If you have parental involvement, great. But if you don’t, you can’t use that as an excuse.
Blanton’s reading and math scores improved steadily: Last year, 72 percent of students scored at grade level in reading, 78 percent hit grade level in math.
Blanton teachers use hugs, popsicles and cookies to reward students. They use data to improve teaching.
You can see the results in Barbara Linton’s third-grade class.
On a recent school day, her students were divided up into a half-dozen groups, each playing a different learning game tied to a specific skill — getting the main idea from a reading passage, learning cause and effect, comparing and contrasting, etc. Linton knows from the data which kids need help with which skill.
Blanton is next to a junk yard with a noisy car crusher. Not a problem, says the principal.
“. . . the teachers and students are usually (too) involved in learning to pay attention.
. . . “We are a tough group. There is no time to whine here, every minute counts in our children’s lives.”