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Team Effort Leads W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary
to Higher Student Achievement

photo
Third grade students work together
on an activity.


Last year students at W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary, a small rural school in Volusia County, demonstrated impressive gains in academic achievement, and students and teachers alike are eager for another exciting year. Student achievement improved dramatically in reading and mathematics for all grades at W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary from 2003 to 2004. Most notably, the percent of fifth graders reading at or above grade level increased from 40% in 2003 to 63% in 2004. In math, the percent of third graders scoring at or above grade level increased from 42% in 2003 to 74% in 2004. W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary, a Title I school where over 75% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, also met all requirements for adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

However, this level of student achievement was not always as evident. In 1999 W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary earned a D school grade. This was obviously not acceptable to the school community, and they set out to make some changes. Over the years new leadership, programs and goals have been added, and while no individual change single-handedly turned the school around, there are a few factors that have certainly contributed to the rise in student achievement.

In 2002, Linda Reader became Principal of W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary. Central to her leadership style is a deep respect for and dedication to the school community. Mrs. Reader values the input of others, so whether you are a teacher, a parent, or a student at the school, the principal's door is always open to you. This has been helpful in creating a sense of unity and camaraderie that is obvious throughout the school, and as a result, staff morale is high, students enjoy coming to school, and parents feel welcome on campus.

Mrs. Reader has also helped give time back to teachers and provided them with valuable resources. By bringing staff development on-campus and limiting the number of meetings teachers must attend, teachers have more time to focus on the needs of their classrooms. The school also implemented the Reading First program in grades kindergarten through three during the 2003-2004 school year. Teachers now receive support from a reading coach who oversees assessment information and models demonstration lessons for teachers in needed areas of reading instruction.

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School volunteers Gay Young, Kathy Moree and Mary Egner prepare for a teacher appreciation luncheon.

In addition, school administrators and staff have made it a goal to challenge students and put excitement in learning. W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary is one of a handful of schools in Volusia County to request an extended school day for students in grades three through five. The extra time allows students to do hands-on science activities that in turn strengthen reading, writing and math skills. Notably, there has been 100% parent support for the program and students enjoy staying to participate in the engaging activities.

The support students and staff receive from Oak Hill's many dedicated community members is another integral component of the school's success. W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary is fortunate to have a dedicated community member who serves as the volunteer coordinator and donates countless hours to running the campus Family Center, providing teachers with volunteer assistance in their classrooms, assisting with recruiting mentors for the active school Mentoring Program, and organizing other special events on campus. The Family Center is a vital resource for parents and children. Parents can access parenting information, educational games to play at home, and household items of need which can be redeemed for volunteer hours. The School Advisory Council (SAC) and Parent Teacher Association are also active in promoting community involvement. During a recent Make A Difference Day project, over 100 volunteers assembled to landscape, install sprinklers, create a math measuring area, plant a mentor garden, and paint a Dream Wall. The SAC also supports the Awesome Parent Program, which empowers parents with specific guidelines and expectations for nurturing their children's development and academic success. Whether volunteers are mentoring students, beautifying the school, or helping teachers and parents, it is clear that the high level of community involvement on campus is essential to the school's success.

Improving student achievement is not an easy task, but W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary proves that it is possible with a dedicated and innovative team of administrators, teachers, community members and students. Keep up the great work!

For more information about W.F. Burns-Oak Hill Elementary School, please visit http://schools.volusia.k12.fl.us/oakhill/.