Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
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Eastside Elementary poised to shed its F grade

BY GEOFF FOX
Tribune Staff

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BROOKSVILLE — Eastside Elementary School is poised to shed its distinction as an F school.

After Eastside earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first failing school in Hernando County School District history, Brooksville Elelmentary principal Mary LeDoux was tapped to take over.

LeDoux was all smiles on Tuesday, days after the release of fourth- and fifth-grade FCAT test scores, which showed gains appreciable enough to lift the F stigma.

Partial data released last week showed that third-grade scores climbed 14 percent in reading and 11 percent in math, while fourth-grade writing scores increased by 1 percent.

“Clearly, we won’t be an F” anymore, LeDoux said. “There were tears of happiness here on Friday (when partial data was released). It was a great day.”

Schools are not expected to receive their official grades until the end of July. While the increase in fourth-grade writing scores wasn’t dramatic, LeDoux said that schools state-wide showed an overall decrease in that category.

There is no partial data yet available on fourth- and fifth-grade reading and math scores, or fifth-grade science scores.

For the improvement, she credited hard work from students, parents, administration and teachers.

“Our teachers really rose to the challenge,” she said. “Some of them gave up their Saturdays to come in and give free tutoring. They come in early, give up their lunch period and stay late.”

The school also benefitted from support instructors from the state Department of Education, including math, science, reading and writing coaches who came to the school two or three times a week.

“They’ve done super work out there,” said school board member Cynthia Moore, whose district includes Eastside. “It’s been turned around. The teachers are involved, the parents are involved.

“They had a Thanksgiving dinner out there this year and the parents came, and that’s the first time they’ve had that. They even had a huge pep rally right before the FCAT.”

LeDoux said that she considers Eastside to be a “generational school,” populated by many students whose parents also went there. She said that many students were cognizant of the school’s failing grade.

Eastside educators have used the students’ naturally competitive nature to help turn things around academically.

“We started looking at which class had the best daily attendance each month,” LeDoux said. “We looked at who had the best discipline and which classroom had the most book reports turned in.”

All of that has resulted in “a culture of high expectations,” LeDoux said.

The hard work at Eastside isn’t done, though.

In the next year, LeDoux said that school officials want to implement more technology-infused instruction.

“We want to build more into the students’ day,” she said. “Students touching technology on a daily basis is (a mantra) that we hear all the time, but we’ve been so focused on vigorous teaching.”

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