Emerson Elementary in Kansas City, Kan. made big gains in test scores in three years

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A Kansas City, Kan., elementary school had the lowest achieving test scores in Kansas in 2009. Now, the school has had a remarkable turnaround.

Antoinette Rocha remembers the difficult days. In 2009 she had been teaching at Emerson Elementary School for eight years. Even so she had to reapply for her own job.

"When they came to us to tell us 'We need to do something about your test scores,'" Rocha said. "There were a lot of hurt feelings."

Test scores were showing Emerson students to be the lowest achieving in Kansas. KCK district administrators chose the Turnaround model as the way forward.

As part of that process the school would receive Federal grant money, but teachers had to reapply for their own jobs. About half of them were replaced. Rocha was among those rehired, and she became part of a remarkable turnaround.

In three years Emerson students went from a 35 percent proficiency rate in reading to 80 percent. They went from a 45 percent proficiency rate in math in 2009 to 85 percent proficiency in 2012.

"We had great teachers in place," said Emerson principal Brett Bernard. "It was just a matter of getting us all to move in one direction together."

Teachers who spoke to 41 Action News credited increased teamwork and collaboration among teachers, and hard work toward a common goal for the school's turnaround.

"A teacher who's been teaching as long as I have," said fourth grade teacher Lynn Salisbury, a teacher for 22 years, "I still don't know everything, and I ask for help."

Bernard said the grant money aided the turnaround by allowing Emerson to start an after-school program and hire a parent liaison. The results were more instruction time for students and increased parent involvement.

The grant will lapse this summer, but Rocha, who teaches fourth grade, believes the students are on much more solid ground academically than they were before.

"I think we've put them on the right track, and now that they've got the right foundation they can go to middle school and be successful," she said.


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