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Oak Forest’s Fieldcrest beating the odds

KevJohns assistant Principal Fieldcrest Elementary School Oak Forest Illinois visits bilingual kindergarden class Wednesday. The school posted biggest jump ranking

Kevin Johns, assistant Principal, Fieldcrest Elementary School, Oak Forest, Illinois, visits a bilingual kindergarden class Wednesday. The school posted the biggest jump in ranking of elementary schools statewide. October 24, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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On a recent day at Fieldcrest Elementary School in south suburban Oak Forest, Spanish words, clearly enunciated, floated from the classroom of bilingual kindergarten teacher Juan Domecq.

“Do-mi-nos.” “Tar-je-tas.” “Cu-bos.”

Domecq’s bright-eyed, uniformed charges quietly rose from the carpet around him, walked to a games area to pick up Dominoes, topic cards or counting cubes, then to a table to play in a very orderly fashion.

Domecq’s is one of three bilingual classes at Fieldcrest, where the 345 students are 44 percent African American, 38 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white, and 75 percent low-income.

Led by Principal Lisa Adrianzen, Fieldcrest is beating the odds, posting the largest jump in rank statewide this year among elementary schools — from 1,742 last year to731.

It is doing so using technology and data-driven assessment and remediation tools to provide starting-post interventions.

“We use several major reading and math fluency assessment programs at the beginning of every school year, and the data places our students in what we call tiers,” explains reading coach Bonnie Banka.

“Tier 1 is at grade level. Tier 2 is struggling. Tier 3 is crisis. We take the bottom 10 percent and put them in a Response to Intervention group. Then we really closely monitor each student’s progress.”

The school, one of seven in Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144, engages every available staff member to assist RIT students for a half-hour each morning, a tool used districtwide.

“It’s a sacred time, no interruptions,” Assistant Principal Kevin Johns said. “The beautiful thing is, everyone who has a hand to help, helps engage RIT students — from P.E. teacher to paraprofessional.”

Struggling students must attend an after-school academic support program, so active parent engagement is key, said Johns. And all teaching is data-driven, with differentiated instruction, based on the premise that every child learns differently, he said.

Throughout the year, timed fluency assessments are administered, with students switching tiers according to progress. And extra help is always a computer away.

“Once we get the data assessment on each child, they can use any computer in the school at any time, and it will already have assignments for the child designed to areas of weakness,” said Banka.

But successful academics must be accompanied by a strong behavioral modeling program, Johns said. Fieldcrest offers active volunteer mentoring — and “Caught Being Good” certificates students can earn to purchase from the school store such carrots as toys and trinkets, T-shirts, extra gym, homework passes and lunch with the principal.

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