Test scores improve for most Valley schools

FRESNO, California

More than 700 children make up Madison Elementary School in rural Fresno County. Thirty percent are English language learners and 86 percent are living at or below the poverty level. For years Madison Elementary School has been one of the lowest performing schools in the district. But this past spring Madison students exceeded state standards for the first time.

Central Unified Superintendent Michael Berg said, "Those students ... those families who would be seen as not able to learn ... they are at a disadvantage. They come with all those excuses that say that child doesn't have an opportunity to learn ... we simply don't believe that ... we have a belief statement that says every student can learn."

Michael Berg says all schools in the district have undergone a transformation in the delivery of instruction. Every child is seen as an individual and teachers work together to deliver what each student in each grade needs to learn.

Russell DeSouza has been teaching at Madison Elementary for 17 years. When he first started, there were no state standards and teachers didn't collaborate and there was little interaction with parents. These days he communicates with parents once a week ... some every day.

Russell DeSouza said, "Since we've had email ... it's just been fantastic ... cuz you can email parents and get quick responses and a lot of parents like that better because if they're in the middle of work they can get that email."

For parents like Jonathan Pantages, the constant communication is a welcome change since he likes to keep tabs on what he describes as a very active 8 year old son Ethan.

Jonathan Pantages said, "There are adjustments that they'll make just to work with him ... to take that perceived deficiency and work with that."

Central Unified has discovered that focusing on one child at a time helps the entire district achieve its academic goals.

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