Leaving No Child Behind
KOMU's Matt Flener documented much of the school's work to rise above low test scores. Now we see how students in one third grade classroom have rallied around a young man named Ezekiel Young.
His story shows how educators at West believe that having a model school, make it for leaving no child behind. But first, he has to get to school.
It's 8:30 a.m. and Jessica Young's day is not starting well.
"Run out of gas in front of my own house," said Young.
This isn't the first time this year her kids won't get to school on time, and for Young that's very frustrating.
Her son, Ezekiel, is in third grade. And despite what you may think when you see him acting out gun shots, Ezekiel does not want to become a military man.
"A marine biologist, a newsman," said Ezekeil after being asked what he wants to be when he grows up. "If I get fired from a newsman. I want to be a marine biologist."
Ezekiel's final destination every morning is West Boulevard Elementary School. On Friday he was getting ready to take the MAP test right after he finished pledging allegiance to the flag.
Four months ago, Zeke said the very same pledge in Vicky Stohldrier's classroom. Their first assignment of the day called for reading about our nation's government, out loud.
As he spoke of the bodies that made a famous national law, Ezekiel started falling behind.
"It's been a hard road for him," said Vicky Stohldrier.
Zeke's teacher noticed he needed special attention when he entered her classroom at the beginning of the year. He sat away from the class, distracted.
"I think with zeke, I wish I could change more," said Stohldrier.
So vicky Stohldrier wanted to get Zeke into a special education program that included intervention with his family.
"He's got a lot of emotional problems he's had to work through," Young.
Zeke's mom, scraps metal for money during the day. She made it to the tenth grade.
"I don't want him to do the same thing I did," said Young. "I don't want him to drop out and not do anything."
Ezekiel's classmates don't want him to either.
"I go step by step sometimes with him," said Kelsey Morris, third grader.
"I hope that he gets in college, and gets a degree!" said Keyia Robinson, third grader.
Each of the kids at West boulevard, not just Zeke, has hopes and dreams. But those dreams come with obstacles.
"A lot of these kids come to schoool after not getting a good night's sleep, or sitting around the table doing homework with their family," said Denise Parker, a literary coach.
81% of kids at West Elementary qualified for free and reduced meals in 2006, because of their parents income level. Most eat breakfast at their school desks. And for years, the school couldn't shake a certain stigma.
"It's a view that there is chaos or something, and that's so not true," said Stohldrier.
The school now has higher paid teachers, more collaboration time and more resources to help students like Zeke succeed.
Before, teachers admit students like Zeke may have gone unnoticed.
"Having been here so long, I saw the decline," said Stohldrier. "I saw that our focus wasn't learning."
"West Boulevard has changed," said Alyssa Hawkins.
"You can say all that you want to say, but I think West boulevard is a good school," said Carlos Jones, student.
Good in attitude, appearance, atmosphere. But during its tenure as a model school, test scores have showed mixed results.
From 2004-2005, test scores in Communication Arts jumped 8%, but fell by two points in 2006 which dropped its status for annual yearly progress.
School officials are quick to put a special asterisk beside those numbers.
"From the beginning of our model school project from that September, to this December. Just this past December. We looked at what percent of our students had been with us. The whole two and half years, about 30 percent," said Vickie Robb, principal.
"The scores cannot reflect what we've done because of that turnover rate," said Stohldrier.
So school officials try to make the classroom as welcoming as possible.Knowing any student at any time could leave because of issues at home.
It's April 5th, just three days before the MAP test, and Vickie Robb's pulled Ezekiel aside.
"That was my huge goal with him when we started, that if nothing else, he was going to leave feeling better about himself, and I think he does, and yet he's learned at the same time," said Stohldrier.
"There's one thing I like the most. No, two things I like the most. Actually I like them all the most math reading and writing," Ezekiel.
Now back to April 17th. Tardy note in hand, Zeke will show how well he knows his favorite subjects on the MAP test. In a special education classroom. While his regular class is upstairs trying to show their annual yearly progress.
Zeke's admits his progress might not show up on the state test.
"Maybe perhaps on the map, he's not going to show exactly where he's supposed to be. I could prove to them with my own assesments, my own district testing, my own record keeping, that he's not being left behind," said Stohldrier.
No child, not even Zeke at West Boulevard is left behind in the eyes of staff members. Yet in an all too familiar story for the school, Zeke won't be under the watchful eye West Boulevard staff next year. His family's moving to Fulton to be closer to his mom's work.
"I hope that those districts, wherever he moves, could continue to provide support for the family," said Stohldrier.
If Zeke's story is one of success for this model school.
"We pretty much had to start from scratch. Because he's more confident, he knows he can learn," said Stohldrier.
West Boulevard, will look forward to more students like him
"I would hope a number doesn't define you. I would hope a relationship defines you," said Robb.
"He's receiving everything that he needs," said Stohldrier.
Dr. Phyllis chase said Friday morning that West Boulevard will continue as the model school next year.