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Rallying Students, Teachers
To Improvement

Talking dogs, a vibrant principal, and intensive extra help all contributed to Maryland's North Glen Elementary School eliminating the achievement gap between white and minority students. Included: Strategies for reducing the achievement gap.

A story in The Washington Post outlined the success staff members at North Glen Elementary School in Maryland had in closing the achievement gap.

"Among black students at North Glen, third-grade proficiency on the statewide test rose from 32 percent in 2003 to 94 percent this year, placing the campus among the top schools in Maryland for black students' performance," according to the article.

"In 2003, eight of 25 black students in North Glen's third grade rated proficient in reading. The next year, 11 of 18 showed proficiency; and this year, 15 of 16," the article continued. "Today, North Glen's teachers, most of them hired by [former principal Maurine] Larkin, enjoy the sort of bond that comes from singing karaoke, kidnapping the principal's stuffed dog, and plotting academic strategy together in a school with just 250 students."

"[The school's] academic dossier -- a mixed-race, working-class, high-poverty school with test scores to rival schools in affluent suburbs -- embodies the goal of No Child Left Behindcreated as a means to raise academic achievement across all racial and socioeconomic groups, and, most symbolically, to close the historic achievement gap between blacks and whites," the article continued.

Three years ago, the school got a new county superintendent, Eric J. Smith; a new statewide test, the Maryland School Assessment; five new teachers; and a new principal, Larkin, "a giddy educator who occasionally allowed herself to be wheeled around the campus on a dolly," the article noted, all of which contributed to North Glen's improvement.

"The principal, who was promoted to a bigger school this fall, prepared North Glen students for the annual round of statewide testing, known by the acronym MSA, with a stuffed Chihuahua called 'Ms. A,' who sometimes spoke to students as Larkin's alter ego during morning announcements." said the article. "Larkin was able to double the number of staff members assigned to provide extra help to low-scoring students." She also scheduled before- and after-school programs for low performers."

"Larkin sensed that teachers and students were jittery about the all-important statewide exam. Larkin sat down with every fourth- and fifth-grade student to go over his or her scores from the previous year. Then, as the spring testing date approached, Larkin trotted out 'Ayap,' another stuffed dog, this one named for the federal goal of adequate yearly progress, " according to the article.

"'I would walk around with him, and Ayap would kiss people -- Ayap wants you to do just a little bit better than last year,' Larkin said, in the article."


Some of the information in this article comes from the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more about this article, you might read:

  • Arundel School Closes Achievement Gap
    This news article appeared in The Washington Post on October 31, 2005. Note: This link was live at the time of publication. Some newspaper Web sites require registration. Others retain complete news stories for a limited time.
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