Madison Elementary School in Davenport showed significant gains in reading and math this year, and its gains especially among black students are being singled out statewide.
Principal Sara Gott announced Friday in an assembly of students and city leaders that Madison is the only school being recognized in Iowa for “extraordinary efforts” in closing the education gap among black students.
“They said they’ve never seen a group show that much growth,” Gott said, explaining state educators’ reaction to Madison’s increases among black students.
In the 2010-11 school year, Madison’s black students in third, fourth and fifth grades were 52.1 percent proficient in math. In the 2011-12 year, they were 77.8 percent proficient, a 25.7 percent increase. The figures are based on the Iowa Assessment tests taken in February.
In the 2010-11 school year, black students in third, fourth and fifth grades were 66.7 percent proficient in reading. In the 2011-12 year, they were 80 percent proficient, a 13.3 percent increase.
Overall, Madison students in third, fourth and fifth grades achieved 84.5 percent proficiency in reading and 83.8 percent proficiency in math in 2012, both of which exceed the state averages of 82.2 percent and 82.4 percent, respectively.
It is one of only five schools in Iowa to be recognized for its increases this year, Gott said.
“It’s so exciting,” 10-year-old Timeah Sanders, a fifth-grader, said while holding a ribbon she received Friday from the school.
Timeah said her grandfather reads to her every night, adding that “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is on her list of favorites.
“It’s wonderful,” added 10-year-old Juniper Jimenez, a fifth-grader, who ranks “The Heroes of Olympus” as her favorite book series.
Both girls said they can read at the seventh-grade level.
Gott credits Madison’s success to a combination of school, family and community efforts. She said her staff gives “110 percent” and parents are required to spend time every night reading to their children.
Efforts to improve reading go back to 2001 when Madison’s students were scoring at 29 percent proficiency, she said.
Part of the strategy, she added, is having students keep a leadership portfolio that they “own and take pride” in keeping.
Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate said Madison is the only elementary school in the district that uses a specialized reading program known as Reading Mastery. He thinks the nationally recognized program could be implemented at other schools, but the effort would be “very costly,” he said.
“I don’t know if this is right for every school, every student,” Tate said.
He insisted Madison’s success has a lot to do with coordination among teachers and parents.
Gott also thanked volunteers from St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. Ambrose University and Republic Companies in Davenport for mentoring students. She said Republic took the initiative to become a “Big Brother Big Sister” partner with students.
Among the city leaders to congratulate students Friday, Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said Madison’s students are an inspiration to other area schools.
“Keep dreaming,” Gluba said. “And don’t let anyone ever tell you you can’t do something.”
He also advised students to pay attention to their teachers, listen to their parents, grandparents and other adults and “put in the hard work it takes to succeed.”
When Tate asked students who the real leaders in the room were, the students all raised their hands.