Students walking to the auditorium at Frances Nungester Elementary were puzzled to see former Principal Cheryl Bowman waiting to greet them. Almost all extended a hand or gave her a hug.
About 30 minutes later, students at Woodmeade Elementary marched to the cafeteria to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” playing in the background. Some students had no clue why they were assembling this time of day.
Both Decatur schools were recognized Wednesday by the state Department of Education as “Torchbearer Schools.” They were two of 20 statewide to receive the award for meeting federal testing standards despite at least an 80 percent poverty rate.
Woodmeade and Frances Nungester were categorized as “exceeding the challenge school,” meaning both made adequate yearly progress in consecutive years. All student groups exceeded state levels in reading and math, and at least one subgroup exceeded reading and math proficiency levels.
The state no longer gives monetary awards for the Torchbearer honor, but the schools will be recognized Feb. 19 in Montgomery at a reception with Gov. Robert Bentley.
“Decatur has always traveled to see what other school systems are doing,” Superintendent Ed Nichols
said. “Now we’re going to have people visiting here to see what we are doing.”
The state has selected Torchbearer Schools since 2004, but this is the first such award for a school in Decatur or Morgan County.
Bowman, who now works in Nashville, visited Nungester because she was principal at the school when its reading and math scores climbed from the 70th and 80th percentiles to above 90 percent.
Fifth-graders posted the highest scores last year with 99 percent in math and 97 percent in reading.
“I didn’t do anything special but empower the highly qualified teachers at this school to teach,” Bowman said.
“It’s an exciting day for Frances Nungester, and she deserves a lot of the credit,” current Principal Shannon Whitfield said.
In 2009, when math scores for grades 3 through 5 declined, Bowman said the school, which has an 89-percent poverty rate, did not panic.
“We had a lot of outside advice, but we had a plan we knew would work, and we kept doing what we thought was best for our students,” she said.
At Woodmeade, with an 84-percent poverty rate, Principal Angie Whittington said teachers started zeroing in on problem areas.
If the third-graders were having problems with multiplication, Woodmeade teachers prioritized that
over addition and subtraction.
Whittington also brought in reading and math
experts who worked with teachers.
“We never accepted the position that our students couldn’t learn because of poverty,” said Melissa McCulloch, a teacher at Woodmeade for 29 years. “It took a lot of extra work, but we all stepped outside our comfort zones because that’s what our students needed.”
From 2008 to 2012, Woodmeade’s fifth-grade math score grew from 71 percent to 100 percent.
Fourth-graders increased from 76 to 100.
Third-graders showed a 12-percent increase in math, while their reading score jumped from 84 to 97.
“You are lighting the way for other schools to follow,” Whittington told the students.
Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|