Humboldt Elementary in Dewey, Arizona
Immense amounts of pressure continue to build for schools throughout America. Achieving higher levels of performance from students and teachers alike is a sentiment that relentlessly rings in the ears of educators. Tests are added, funds and teachers are taken away, but the expectations for the answer to the equation remains unchanging … better performance, better students, better schools. Under the most ideal situation, educating students can be a daunting task. Mix in everything else our educational system is facing and the task seems downright undo-able. That is why State of the Re:Union’s School Spotlight takes delight in featuring a Bright Spot school, Humboldt Elementary in Dewey, Arizona. In great American fashion, the school, staff and educators have found a way to help their students achieve greatness. (To read the full article, click here.)
Within the past six years, Humboldt Elementary found itself at the threshold of being named one of Arizona’s “underperforming” schools, a title many schools have a hard time losing. However, determination helped those at Humboldt Elementary pull itself up by the bootstraps and begin its journey to become the highest performing school in Arizona, despite poverty levels and large class sizes.
According to Bright Spot, it was after a major initiative launched in 2005 that students’ reading scores shot up, assisting them to their current ranking. Humboldt’s Principal Cole Young attributes the school’s success “to highly trained teachers and support staff, as well as better use of student data and guided reading.”
Through the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) teachers were trained to learn how to identify each students’ level of reading and learning. Each student is assessed within the first week of school where teachers and staff can pinpoint students in need of intervention and at what level. A system of reading programs is set in place and followed, allowing teachers to monitor individual progress.
Ask teachers and they will most likely say that this level of attention per student is very hard to manage, especially with an average class size of 30. But the highly-trained teachers and staff at Humboldt do not make allowances for this as an excuse. They are dedicated to helping each child succeed, regardless of circumstances. And so far, it has worked, and worked well.
In addition to their teachers, the students at Humboldt Elementary stay motivated with a number of tools and strategies: guided reading strategies, Reading Counts (a competitive reading leveled program), and a zealous principal who’ll stop at nothing to help keep students’ momentum going. “Principal Young offers abundant rewards such as shaving his head and subjecting himself to a dunking booth if students meet reading goals. This year, if Humboldt students reach [their goal], Principal Young promises to eat insects.”
With caring staff showing this level of dedication, it is no wonder that a school with every excuse to fail – poverty and all of the hardships accompanying it, and large class sizes to boot – is not only surviving, but thriving. Humboldt serves as a beacon of hope for all schools, but especially those that are underfunded and overworked; and, unfortunately, many schools seem to fall into that category. It is always a pleasure to find schools, administrators and staff who go the extra mile, and grin as they do so.
Is there a school in your community taking similar measures to ensure quality education for all students? Perhaps you’ve heard of a great program or organization working to assist schools and students overcome learning gaps and/or funding needs? Or ever more, maybe there is a special way your community school rallies to keep their students motivated. Whatever the case, of course we want to know. You can give us the scoop in the box below.