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Brawley school earns state kudos

April 24, 2002|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Even before he went to San Francisco last week to attend the Achieving Schools Conference, J.W. Oakley Elementary School principal Craig Casey had a place picked out in the Brawley school's front office to hang the special award plaque he would bring back.

That award names J.W. Oakley as a 2002 State Title 1 Achieving School.

And here's what makes the distinction of being such a school even more distinctive — there are more than 4,900 Title 1 schools in California and only 42 were recognized as Title 1 Achieving Schools.

Interviewed before the conference, Casey said, "I'm extremely proud of everyone who worked so hard to achieve this distinction — the teachers, the students, our administration and para-educators."

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Casey also got to bring home a large banner proclaiming the school's Title 1 achievement and a distinguished school honorable mention award.

"We've made 162 point API (Academic Performance Index) growth over the last three years and we're extremely proud of that result," Casey said.

That ranks his school No. 4 in Californian schools making the biggest gains on API scores over the last three years, Casey said.

With some $90,000 awarded to the school for meeting its API scores in previous years, each classroom last year received new Gateway computers and a host of instructional materials that Casey says have helped immensely with the school's power standards in language arts, math and reading.

Casey is adamant his school's success is because of one core point.

"It's the collaborative effort of all our teachers, our para-educators, our students and the parents," he said.

Parents contributed an estimated 8,000 volunteer hours at the school last year, doing everything from working in their children's classrooms to helping in the school library.

The school motto, in place for three years, is "No excuses, be excellent!" and Casey said that motto is at the heart of those API gains.

"You hear criticism of schools in isolated rural areas like the Imperial Valley all the time … some people didn't believe schools like ours could make significant gains … but we made it to the upper one percent of Title 1 Achieving Schools and that is something everyone connected with the school can be very proud of," Casey said.

>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or dingo87@earthlink.net

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