A relentless dedication from staff and new programs to track progress has Samuel Kennedy Elementary School in the Elk Grove Unified School District improving academic success and closing the achievement gap for students
Samuel Kennedy Elementary School has overcome its fair share of obstacles to create a rich and diverse environment, filled with dedicated staff and students. 98.7% of the nearly 1,000 students on campus qualify for free or reduced lunch, about half the school is considered an English Language Learner (ELL), and many students are in need of basic essentials and care. Despite these challenging factors, the 43 teachers along with other support staff at the school have made incredible leaps toward closing the achievement gap at Kennedy Elementary.
In the last two years at Kennedy Elementary, students have jumped 10 percentage points in reading proficiency for their grade level, a huge increase and remarkable success for the school. This significant academic gain is also coupled with the school meeting their ELA redesignation goal, meaning that 12 percent of ELLs at the school are redesignated as fluent in English each year. With the latest rounds of assessments recently completed, the school is predicting that rates for grade level proficiency and ELA redesination will jump again and increase next year, possibly by another 10 percentage points.
“We are high poverty, but we are very rich in diversity which adds to the beautiful tapestry that exists here,” noted second year Kennedy Principal Wendy Thompson. “Our students, we call them young scholars, because our goal is for them all to be solidly on a path to college and in order to make that happen, we have had to do some important things here in the last couple of years. Kennedy was the lowest performing school in the district but no longer is and I think it’s because we have had relentless focus.”
A large part of that focus are common data points carried with each child from Kindergarten to grade 6 that assess different aspects of their reading abilities. These points are common language throughout the school, meaning any teacher can help any student, exactly where they are. Three different data points help teachers identify where students are at in their reading level and also give students three opportunities every single day to improve their reading; strong initial teaching in the classroom, small group instruction based on every child’s current reading level, and the iReady reading intervention computer program.
Along with distributive leadership throughout the school, such drastic positive changes have occurred at Kennedy Elementary because of the dedicated teachers and support staff who are often on campus when the sun comes up, stay late, and come in on the weekends. Principal Thompson is extremely proud of her teachers and has said, “Samuel Kennedy teachers are very precise in their practice. High precision means that they can tell you exactly where every student is and what they need next to succeed. Knowing students so intimately is something that is helping Kennedy to grow. All the teachers at this school communicate in the same language.”
The School Motto at Kennedy Elementary is everything we do matters, everyday, for every child. “Of all the things we do, the most important thing we do is teach children to read. If you cannot read, you are effectively disenfranchised from a good life. And since we want all our children to have the best life, we have to be relentless in teaching our students to be proficient readers and writers,” proclaims Principal Thompson. She feels that the sky’s the limit for Kennedy Cougars because of the fine teachers and staff, all committed to the same goals in getting every student to grade level proficiency and beyond.