Few schools break out confetti and noisemakers when told they've been named a school in need of improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act. But even though the school did not make AYP, Parkville still had plenty of good news to celebrate. Included: Information about a school's high stakes tests scores.Probably no one celebrates bad news the way Parkville Community School does.
Assistant principal Latesha Jones (left) and
(Photo courtesy of Parkville Community School)
Despite prolonged, school-wide faculty efforts, scrutinizing past Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) scores, extraordinary efforts -- including picking up a student known to score well on the CMTs and bringing her to school on test day -- and an appeal to the state, Parkville's scores were not good enough to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. So it has been designated a school in need of improvement.
But no one would have known that from the festivities at the school's open house in September. Principal Elizabeth Michaelis first shared the bad news part of the "we have good news and bad news" equation to parents in the school's auditorium, and then went on to celebrate the good news.
"I want to show you what we've done in the past year," she told parents and siblings in the audience.
Parkville ranked well on the CMTs at many grade levels (see sidebar) and as the scores and the school's ranking among other district elementary schools were announced, teachers paraded down the auditorium aisles, blowing noisemakers, releasing screeching balloons, tossing leis and iridescent confetti, and distributing small toys to the children, like marchers in a Mardi Gras parade.
Students, who had gone to the gymnasium with some faculty members when they arrived for open house, walked down the aisles waving newly-created signs whose messages included, "We Can Do It!" "CMT Champions," and "We Rock" as confetti and glitter wafted down.
"Some schools just open the doors," Michaelis said later. "We throw a party."
For the open house, Michaelis and assistant principal Latesha Jones brought back their beach gear from the professional development days before school opened and set it up on the auditorium stage, complete with beach chairs, coolers, and foam crabs.
Written on a paper sun hovering above the stage were the words, "How can you help students soar into the future?"
As she had told the teachers when they returned, Michaelis informed parents that BEACH stood for Best Ever Achievement Chairs. As she spoke to the parents, staff members took turns translating her remarks into Spanish.
Michaelis reminded parents that staff members want each student to read 25 books by the end of the year.
She also thanked the community for quickly and correctly embracing the district's new uniform policy. "Your children look beautiful every day," she said, and several students modeled variations of the new uniform components.
Parkville's determination to reach ever higher was all over the school for the 216 visiting parents to see.
In the hallway near the school's entrance, tables held information about registering to vote, free tutoring, student handbooks, and materials parents could use to improve students' reading.
One poster featuring a plump squirrel announced, "Parkville students are nuts about their CMT results."
Another poster near the main office urged readers to "Climb the ladder to success" and the ladder's rungs were pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.
Parents also were able to buy raffle tickets for a sound system, which had been donated, so all the revenue went to Parkville, and sign up their children for the Boys and Girls Club afterschool program at Parkville.
After the presentation in the auditorium, parents visited classrooms to look around and chat informally with teachers. Michaelis had given all the teachers a checklist of items to cover during the open house and guidelines for organizing their thoughts.
In one classroom, Michaelis thanked a parent for her enthusiastic clapping during the presentation in the auditorium.
"I would do it every day, just to let the kids know we're here," the woman replied.
(Editor's Note: All students' and teachers' names have been changed)