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Schools with ELLs, American Indian Students Honored

The Education Trust today announced four schools as the 2011 winners of its annual "Dispelling the Myth" awards, and two of those winning schools stand out for the strides they've made with a particular focus on language.

More than 70 percent of the 962 pre-K-5th grade students (wow, that's an enormous elementary school) at Halle Hewetson Elementary School, in Las Vegas, are English-language learners, and 100 percent are eligible for federal free- and reduced-price meals). Eighty-five percent of students are Latino. In 2004, just 7 percent of the school's Latino 3rd graders met standards in reading, compared with 26 percent across Nevada. Fast forward just six years to 2010, and 78 percent of Latino 3rd graders met the state's reading standards, compared to 50 percent statewide.

According to Ed Trust, Halle Hewetson's improvement strategy has hinged largely on a single-minded focus on reading and writing. Hewetson students have since become obsessive readers and turned their school's library into the busiest in the entire Clark County School District.

Calcedeaver Elementary School, in Mt. Vernon, Ala., (near Mobile) is home to 262 students in grades pre-K-6, and more than 80 percent of them are American Indian, specifically Choctaw. The staff at Calcedeaver has used a multi-pronged strategy to boost achievement, including using data to identify students who need additional supports. But an important piece of the school's reform efforts has centered around teaching children the Choctaw language and culture, much of which had been lost to their families generations ago.

At the bottom of the state's school performance list 10 years ago, Calcedeaver now has some of the highest proficiency rates in reading and math in all of Alabama, according to Ed Trust.

I want to know much more about how these two schools have turned things around, and I'll get a chance to hear from their administrators and some teachers later this week during Ed Trust's national conference in Arlington, Va.

Check this space in a few days to read more about them.

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