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Posted: June 19, 2012 9:32 p.m.

West Newton works hard to improve

Despite being placed on the state's "Focus School" list, West Newton Elementary School has never stopped working hard to improve the school for the betterment of their students.

"What makes a school great?" questioned Principal Takila Curry. "Although test scores are important, rarely do you hear about the other factors that make a school successful. West Newton is an exceptional school where students come first. Every decision made is based on the academic and social needs of the students.

West Newton is comprised of a dedicated team of administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff members who set high expectations and provide rigorous and quality instruction each day. Despite being named a focus school based on 2010-2011 CRCT data, West Newton has shifted gears instructionally and made noticeable gains in the areas of reading, English language arts, math and writing. West Newton was named a focus school due to an achievement gap between the white subgroup (42 students) and students with disabilities subgroup (38 students). According to the 2012 CRCT data, the achievement gap between the white and students with disabilities subgroups has begun to close.

"The academic success of our students can be contributed to the following: morning math instruction across all grade levels, daily sustained silent reading, math labs for students with disabilities and level 1 students in grades three through five, tier two and three interventions that are given with fidelity, individualized instruction, and the 21st Century Afterschool program that serves more than 100 students from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday that is of no cost to parents.

"The faculty at West Newton will continue to analyze academic achievement data, set high but realistic goals, use data to inform instructional decisions and provide research based instruction each day. We believe that our students can be anything that they want to be, doctors, lawyers, presidents, congressmen, electricians, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, nurses, etc. and we are laying a strong foundation for their future each day."

Superintendent Gary Mathews agreed that WNES has improved their scores.

"West Newton, with its 79 percent free and reduced lunch population, shows numbers in the 80s in each grade as to the percent of students passing in English language arts. However, in mathematics, the school obviously has challenges, especially in the early grades. But, the good news is, looking at the trends, by the time students reach the fifth grade at WNES passing percentages balloon into the 80s. Nonetheless, heading into this past 2011-12 school year, WNES did not make federal Adequate Yearly Progress and has, in fact, ended up as one of only two county schools on the state's ‘Focus School' list for at least one underperforming subgroup. That said, we are encouraged with the school's 14-point gain in writing this past year. Naturally, we look for this kind of improvement to carry over into other tested areas such that WNES is positioned much better when the 2012-13 school year starts. With the last set of observations conducted at WNES by instructional strategist Dan Mulligan, and given my own observations about WNES, I feel confident as to the school's future academic progress. In fact, when 2011-12 CRCT results are released, look for this school to do better than in past years. I know that both faculty and administration are working on the right work ... right."

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