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Maury Makes Strides

Test scores show dramatic improvement; science scores remain low.

For the first time since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, Maury Elementary School has met federal requirements on Standards of Learning tests, but the school is still not fully accredited.

“Our staff is loyal, passionate and hard-working,” said Principal Lucretia Jackson. The news came during “Take Your Legislator to School Day,” where State Sen. Patsy Ticer and Del. David Englin visited the school this week.

“We are a family, and we are committed to the success of this school,” Jackson said, after receiving a round of applause from the legislative delegation.

Despite the good news, the test results also show a weakness in science scores, which remain low. While students achieved an overall 60-percent pass rate last year, this year’s score was 58 percent. As a result of not meeting Virginia’s science benchmark, Maury is not fully accredited.

Third-grade science scores are up from 15 percent passing in 2003 to 73 percent passing in 2005 — with males scoring 88 percent and females scoring 57 percent. But fifth-grade science scores have remained somewhat stagnant, with 44 percent passing in 2003 and 58 percent passing in 2005. Fifth-grade males scored 70 percent and fifth-grade females scored 50 percent in science.

RISING TEST SCORES in other areas allowed the school to meet the adequate yearly progress federal standards. State and federal officials use the same data to judge schools, but they place emphasis on different categories. Even so, scores are down in a number of areas. For example, only 27 percent of third-grade students passed the reading test.

“Teachers and administrators have been focusing on doing whatever it takes to reach every child and it has paid off,” said Superintendent Rebecca Perry. “The bar was raised, and the students met those increased expectations.”

The announcement that Maury met federal standards for adequate yearly progress represents the culmination of years of effort by division administrators, the success of controversial moves by the superintendent and the determination of a principal who has worked to bring change to the 75-year-old school.

"We are obviously thrilled with the progress that

Lucretia Jackson has made at the school," said Maury

PTA President Joan Holtz. "I would attribute the

success to the focus of the teaching staff."

The school’s problems increased a 1999 decision to redraw the school zones, bringing a challenging new student population to school administrators. Five-and-a-half years later, Maury seems to have pulled itself up by its pint-sized bootstraps. Most scores are up, and morale at the school has improved.

IN THE SUMMER of 1999, the School Board voted to redraw Alexandria’s districts — altering the student population at Maury. Students from the public housing projects near the Charles Houston Recreation Center were moved from George Mason Elementary School to Maury.

At the same time, the old practice of “pairing” Maury with Lyles-Crouch —a throwback to the days of desegregation — was ended. In its place, Maury and Lyles-Crouch were instituted as independent elementary schools serving Kindergarten through the fifth grade.

The new elementary school map, gave Maury a poorer school population. The school failed to meet federal standards for “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law several years in a row, and federal law then required that students be allowed to transfer to other schools. Then, the school was required to provide private tutoring.

“We hit rock bottom,” said Assistant Superintendent Cathy David. “Diversity is one of our greatest strengths. But it’s also one of our biggest challenges.”

By summer, 2003, Perry decided to reconstitute the school. Teachers were asked to reapply for their jobs under stricter standards, and they were required to meet with parents every nine weeks and enroll in professional development classes. Some teachers did not return, and several new teachers were brought on board.

Perry moved Jackson from Lyles-Crouch to Maury, with Jackson becoming the fifth principal to lead the school in seven years. The decision to move the popular principal infuriated many parents at Lyles-Crouch, who vented their frustration to Perry and school board members.

Despite the criticism, Perry followed through on her plan. Jackson, who had been at Lyles-Crouch for eight years, worked to transform the school — bringing a new staff that she called “the dream team.”

IMPROVING SCIENCE scores is a top priority for Jackson, who recently created a new science experimentation classroom for students. Last summer, she transformed an unused room into a full-fledged laboratory. During the budget process, a new $69,022 position was created to give students specialized instruction. Jackson is hoping that the added effort will pay off in next year’s scores — bringing the elusive goal of full accreditation to Maury.

“We’re hoping that the science lab will help us improve our scores,” Jackson said. “We want to move our school from vision to accreditation, and the science experimentation lab is one way of accomplishing that goal.”