Crutcho Elementary School sits on a flood plain near Oklahoma City. One could say its location is a metaphor for the school’s challenges. Just as the school is at risk of flooding, its students are susceptible to the generational poverty that surrounds it.
The Oklahoma Department of Education has identified Crutcho as a persistently underperforming school. But when one walks through Crutcho’s halls these days, the attitude is not resignation or complacency, but one of hope and renewal.
“Whatever it takes. No excuses. No exceptions.” These are the school staff’s mottos.
According to Principal Robert Killian and Superintendent Teresa McAfee, everyone understood the importance of receiving the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant (SIG).
“The SIG grant gave us an opportunity to establish a relationship with the state that we never had before,” McAfee said.
Crutcho received $973,000 from ED in the 2010-2011 school year, under the SIG transformation model. Since that time, reading and math scores have reached the state median, a huge improvement over results in years past.
The SIG grant has allowed for longer school days, extending learning time to seven and a half hours a day, which in one school year is the equivalent of 206 days of learning compared to the typical 175. The summer school program was extended to five and a half hours a day for six weeks instead of four hours a day for four weeks. Additional reforms include a new schedule that provides more collaboration time for students in grades 3 through 8 who need additional help in certain subject areas.
The reforms also introduced advanced technology to the school. Students have laptops, and there are cameras in every classroom to create video archives of instruction for the teachers’ professional development. Smart boards were added to every classroom so teachers could access the Internet as well as promote interaction, and a data and technology integration coach was brought in to assist teachers in using technology as part of the curriculum.
The school’s change in morale is palpable.
“Kids are starting to believe in themselves,” said School Librarian Donna Rupert.
In addition to the grant, the school has partnered with the local community to help meet the students’ needs, as well as their families’. Wal-Mart helps provide school supplies for the classrooms and a local church gives birthday cakes to every child throughout the year, as well as holiday presents for more than a third of the students.
As a result of these major improvements, more people want their children to attend Crutcho, explained Principal Killian.
“We have seen tremendous growth,” he said.
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Natalie Torentinos is a graduate student at The George Washington University and an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach.