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Arrowhead celebrates jump in test scores
Arrowhead Elementary School staff this week are celebrating a significant jump in their students' Maryland State Assessment test scores.
The school, which is on the state watch list for having had low scores the previous year, was among the county schools with highest margin of improvement. The staff says it took the entire Arrowhead community to accomplish the feat.
Third grade reading scores at the Upper Marlboro school went from 24.5 percent proficiency last year to 45.1 percent in 2004. And fifth grade math scores shot up more than 28 percent from 17.9 percent proficiency last year to 46.2.
The scores were announced last Tuesday.
School staff credit the higher scores to administrative steps centered around one theme: work collaboratively to give the children what they need to learn.
"As a grade level, we worked a lot together," said Nicole Gavern, a third grade teacher. Support staff partnered with teachers in the classrooms or worked with groups of students in need of more individualized help. Teachers took turns tutoring students after school. And instead of each of the four third grade teachers teaching every subject, two focused on math while the other two taught reading.
"We put the teacher's strengths in the right places," said Gail Bentz, the school improvement resource teacher.
The students also joined the effort. "Kids that understood would help the kids that didn't, which made it more of a team effort," said fifth grade teacher Robb Korlewitz.
The teachers call it a collaborative effort, but their principal Sheila McConnell called it "the village concept."
Making everyone a part of the process worked with another group of students as well: the school's 120 special education students.
Arrowhead has more special education children than almost any other county school.
"Having kids two or three levels below grade level taking a test on grade level is a challenge in itself," said Bentz.
Arrowhead staff cross taught the special education students, developing their lessons differently while using grade level material. Those students also improved significantly.
Last year, the school was reconstituted to make class sizes smaller.
And CEO Andre Hornsby handpicked Sheila McConnell, a seasoned principal who helped get Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier off the watch list in one year.