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Determined Principal
Sees Success At School With War-Weary Students

Even though Ware Elementary School in Fort Riley, Kansas, serves children from low-income Army families who are stressed by parents’ repeated deployments overseas, a determined principal has made sure students get the attention they need to succeed.    
Included: How a principal changed the schools atmosphere..

Courtesy of The Achievement Alliance

Ware Elementary School, Fort Riley, Junction City, Kansas, has almost all of the conditions that prevent a school from being high-performing.

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Many of the students are from low-income, single-parent homes on the U.S. Army base, where families are stressed by the second or third deployment of a parent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Since 23 percent of the students normally live in single-parent families, many now live with no parents. In 2006, 82 percent of Ware students qualified for the free or reduced-price federal meal program.

The student mobility rate is 65 percent, and teacher turnover is high as well. Most of the staff members are inexperienced and leave after a year or two.

Still, even with all the strains on Wares students, parents, and teachers, the school posts very high proficiency rates on the Kansas state tests. Were the only school in Kansas that received Kansas Confidence in Education Certificate of Merit Awards for reaching the standards of excellence in grades three, four, and five on state reading and math assessments, said the schools assistant principal, Jennie Black.

Ware is a much different school than the one principal Deb Gustafson took over in July 2001, when Ware was labeled a school in need of improvement. Teachers were constantly asking for transfers, parents were in an uproar, and discipline was an ongoing problem. The previous year, 99 students out of 750 had been suspended from school at least once, and many more than once. Test scores, according to Gustafson, were horrendous, with more than half the fourth graders not meeting state reading and math standards.

The schools transformation had to do with Gustafsons determination to change the schools atmosphere, build relationships between teachers and students and teachers and teachers; increase teacher collaboration, and use data to drive instruction.

To read the full story, see Its Being Done: Ware Elementary School, Fort Riley, Junction City, Kansas

SOURCE: The Achievement Alliance