Originally created 05/07/02

Honored schools share some traits



ATLANTA - Principals, superintendents and other educators met at Bethune Elementary School on Monday morning to honor Georgia schools that are succeeding despite high poverty rates.

But first, they had to wait for a break in the classical music that's piped into the inner-city school's hallways between classes - an effort to broaden pupils' cultural horizons.

"They use all kinds of different music," said Holly Robinson, the executive director of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. "They do wonderful things at this school."

Such innovations, she said, made Bethune one of the foundation's 23 No Excuses Schools - campuses with high poverty rates that have posted high academic achievement.

Two Richmond County schools were among those honored: Terrace Manor Elementary School and Glen Hills Middle School.

To make the list, schools had to have a poverty rate above the state average - based on the number of free and reduced-price government lunches served - and perform well on the annual report card the foundation releases.

"All children can learn," Ms. Robinson said. "Today, we're really shining a spotlight on schools that show those successes.

"These schools are saying: 'If English is your second language, if you're from a split family, you drop all those excuses at the door and we're going to teach you how to read."'

Ms. Robinson and others said the successful schools share certain themes, including high expectations and a focus on teacher training.

Edward Boswell is the principal of Manchester Middle School in Meriwether County, just west of Macon. He called programs to add technology and other new programs at the school a disappointment, saying a "no-frills approach" works better.

"When it was all over, we really felt any gains we had were based on teacher initiative to teach the objective," he said.

Mr. Boswell also said motivating pupils to care about their performance is key.

Giving a standardized test that doesn't affect grades might not inspire great effort, he said, but promote the test as a chance to compete against other schools from across the country and you'll see pupils do their best.

Reach Doug Gross at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.