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Keyes Elementary moves out of program improvement
Keyes school pic1
Keyes Elementary School intervention coordinator sits aside students in the classroom who need that special one-on-one attention to help them get up to speed with the rest of the class. The intervention program is one of many things that has helped move Keyes Elementary out of program improvement this year. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal

College connections, a new belief system and working together are just a few things that helped Keyes Elementary School move out of program improvement, but all their efforts and programs put together is what made the big change at the school.

Keyes Elementary is one out of four schools that moved out of program improvement in Stanislaus County this year, said Cynthia Schaefer, Keyes Elementary principal. There are currently 400 schools in the Central Valley that are in program improvement and only eight of those schools exited program improvement — including the four in Stanislaus County.

And they did it after meeting their required percent proficient in Average Yearly Progress in all subgroups and hitting their target Academic Performance Index growth for two years in a row.

When a school is categorized as program improvement, they must meet all the state API requirements and federal AYP requirements for two years in a row. The first year they move into safe harbor and are frozen into that year of program improvement.

For Keyes Elementary, they were frozen in year two of program improvement last year as they moved into safe harbor and moved out of program improvement this year with their continuous growth. Last year their API score jumped by 16 points and this year their API score increased by 51 points.

“I know that we are heading in the right direction and if we keep doing what we are doing, we will see a good trend form,” Schaefer said. “More kids are succeeding.”

Most of the techniques that Keyes Elementary used to help move their school out of program improvement were taken from turnaround school workshops that school administrators attended.

They used a collaboration of techniques like college connections, medals and pins, professional learning communities, focusing on English learners’ academic vocabulary, interventions and working together.

“It’s a conglomeration of doing things that are positive,” Schaefer said. “There are so many aspects to it but you have to work together. It’s not one single thing. It is changing the whole culture of the school and the community.”

 The college connections really changed the culture of the school and community. Each classroom has their own college to represent where they learned about their college, wore their favorite college T-shirt and learned some college vocabulary words every Tuesday. They even had a college kick off day back in September where they could show their support of their college.

It helps students have the concept that college is an option for them, Schaefer said. Teachers work to prepare them for college and parents start believing college is for their child.

When students meet proficient or advanced on their Standardized Testing and Reporting tests they also receive a medal that they can wear around for special events, she said. After they get their medal, then they start getting pins for what they meet proficient or advanced in — Math or English — so they can start collecting their pins on their medal.

There are also intervention programs that help target students falling behind to catch them up to speed.

“It’s not letting kids fall through the cracks,” Schaefer said.

But when it comes down to it the reason why Keyes Elementary was able to move out of program improvement, “it’s ordinary people that are doing extraordinary things,” she said.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.