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First "A" for Avon Elementary

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Reading Coach Joannie Harrell displays this yearís motto, "Reading is Key."

Avon Elementary School is a place students are proud to attend. There are many positive aspects about this school. It is filled with hard working professionals willing to work as a team and students eager to learn. Collegiality among the staff and dedication to children are readily observed at Avon Elementary.

The school also benefits from active parent involvement and tremendous support from Highlands County School Board district staff. The school consistently fluctuated between a B or C school grade in recent years. Both students and staff wanted to move up to an A.

To do so, expectations were raised, and the school community decided there would be no excuses or rationalizations. Everyone, students and adults, would be accountable for reaching high standards. As this became the norm, students benefited from "owning" their learning and knowing exactly what was expected of them. Teachers also benefited from this cultural change. Wanting to become better instructors, teachers were willing to learn and try new research-based strategies. When data began to drive instruction, both achievement and instruction improved. Administrators also increased planning time for teachers and implemented a remedial plan for each grade level.

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Administrators Pam Burnham and Wanda Rosser enjoy the A+ Back to School Celebration.

Even though this new approach was difficult at times, students and staff know it is working. This is evident not only in the classroom but also in student test scores. The percentage of students reading at or above grade level improved from 46% in 2001 to 81% in 2004. In math, the percentage of students scoring proficient or above improved from 38% in 2001 to 68% in 2004. In addition, Avon Elementary earned its first A school grade ever in 2004. The school also met 97% of the criteria for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the Federal No Child Left Behind Act.

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Parents and administrators pause for a moment during a reading night with students.

Reflecting on her schoolís progress, Principal Pam Burnham is ecstatic with the improvement and dedication her students and staff demonstrated last year, but she also knows that there is still work to do. She believes that ďthe measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem, but whether itís the same problem you had last year.Ē This year, as usual, she will work with her teachers and staff to overcome obstacles to student achievement while ensuring that students and teachers maintain their enthusiasm for learning.