Jefferson Elementary beat the odds.
That's what an official with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., had to say about the Cape Girardeau elementary school during a special visit Thursday.
Dr. Susan Sclafani, an adviser to the U.S. secretary of education, highlighted the achievement as part of a national tour of schools that showed major improvement on this year's state assessments.
Jefferson Elementary, with more than 80 percent of the student body categorized as low income, was the only school in Missouri selected for the tour.
"We did a lot of research before deciding which schools to visit," Sclafani said. "I saw your test scores, and there's real growth."
Jefferson principal Mark Cook gave Sclafani a tour of his building, then the two met with the school's reading coach and several teachers to discuss the school's various programs and projects.
"There's such an enthusiasm with teachers here. They really believe that they can help all children learn," Sclafani said. "Most people would look at a school with 80 percent of students on free and reduced lunches and say, 'you can't expect high achievement there.'"
Jefferson students made significant improvements on the 2004 Missouri Assessment Program tests, surpassing new achievement standards set by the federal government under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and making the largest improvement among Cape Girardeau's five elementary schools on the MAP social studies test and the second largest improvement on the math and science tests.
School officials cited a variety of reasons for the improvement, including professional development and collaboration among teachers, new test-taking strategies, parental involvement and changes to curriculum.
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