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Celebration School Shares Success Story

Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

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Dayle Timmons and Dr. Susan Brasfield

Dayle Timmons came to Celebration K-8 School November 18 with a mission: to see how a high-achieving school challenges its students to reach the next level.

With Celebration getting top marks from the state for the past three years, Florida's 2004 Teacher of the Year picked the right place.

"No Child Left Behind clearly identifies what schools need to be doing for lower-level kids," Timmons said of President Bush's school-reform effort. "But we don't want to ignore the high-achieving students. We need to make sure we have a balance."

She visited Celebration along with four fellow teachers from Chets Creek Elementary School in Jacksonville, where Timmons has been teaching special education for four years. The group spent the day touring the school, talking with other teachers about approaches to learning and challenges in the classroom.

With more than three-quarters of Celebration students earning a passing grade on the FCAT, school director Susan Brasfield has been encouraging teachers to step beyond factual learning and push students to synthesize information and understand concepts.

"Learning is a lifelong journey," Brasfield said. "You can always do better."

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Dayle Timmons and K-8 School Staff and Teachers

Timmons and her group were particularly interested in performance-based learning, a skill crucial to acing the FCAT.

"You can't just memorize facts and do well on the FCAT," said Timmons, who has been teaching for 25 years. "Students need to know the information and be able to apply it."

But it wasn't just the high achievers Timmons and her group focused on. They also wanted to see how the school handles students who might fall behind.

Celebration started a program this year in which parents of third-graders who read at a low level give permission for their children to be in a class where they get a double dose of reading.

"Many of them have never felt a success at school," Brasfield said. "We're helping them achieve academically but at the same time working to make them feel good."

Focusing on students' individual needs, gifted or not, is important for a school to truly be successful, Timmons said.

"If you're really committed to No Child Left Behind, then you really have to look at every child," she said.

Staff writer Tania deLuzuriaga can be reached at tdeluzuriaga@orlandosentinel.com or 407-931-5934.
Copyright © 2003, Orlando Sentinel