Local News

Low-income elementary school is high performing

Posted September 3, 2009

— A Raleigh elementary school is defying the trend that schools with low-income students have lower test scores.

At Lead Mine Elementary, 44 percent of nearly 500 students get free or reduced lunches. Yet 85 percent of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders passed end-of-grade tests.

School defies low test scoring trend School defies low test scoring trend

Principal Gary Baird said the formula behind student success includes hiring good teachers and getting them to connect with students.

"You can have all the programs in the world, but unless you have people to implement them, it's not going to work out," Baird said.

Lead Mine's EOG scores are 8 percentage points higher than the district average and outperforms most schools with a similar or smaller percentage of students getting free or reduced lunches.

"Just because a child's (on) free and reduced lunch doesn't mean they're not capable," Baird said.

The success also comes from methods teachers use. In teams, they review test data gathered throughout the year to measure students' progress.

"We look at how they score on that, and then we look at what part they struggle with," described fourth-grade teacher Ashlee Wackerly. "Then we'll talk about strategies that we can use to take back to our classrooms."

Lead Mine blocks out 45 minutes a day for student enrichment or intervention. Students who already understand the lessons do activities that build on that knowledge. Students who need extra help get it from resource teachers supported by federal funding.

Other secrets to student achievement are software that individualizes math and science lessons, teaching basics before EOG testing and a staff committed to learning – down to the custodians, Baird said.

"You can look at your kids and say, 'Man, we've got 44 percent free and reduced lunch, how are we ever going to teach them?' Or you say, 'OK, whoever comes through that door, they're going to learn,'" he said.

Lead Mine's EOG results caught the attention of Wake County Public Schools System Superintendent Del Burns. His leadership team visited the school this week to learn about its success.

Wackerly said teachers aren't resting on their laurels.

"We're setting higher goals this year," she said.


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  • gandalla Sep 4, 2009

    This proves its all about how good the teacher teaches.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 4, 2009

    This shows that Wake County's socio-economic (race) based busing isn't needed. Poor kids are performing well without sitting beside rich kids in the suburbs.

  • trooperooh Sep 4, 2009

    This may be impressive for Wake County Schools but we have schools in poor counties (Franklin, Vance, Granville, and Warren) with 80% plus free and reduced student populations whose results are more noteworthy. With all the resouces available in Wake County and the manipulation of the student demographics, all the schools should be Schools of Excellence.

  • gandalla Sep 4, 2009

    Well that should put the whole socio-economic theory on school failures to an end. The key to a successful school has and always will boil down to teachers. Mediocre teachers will produce horrible students. To all the teachers at this school, good job.
    Other schools need to look at this model. And all schools should start a performance based pay system.

  • Education_1st Sep 4, 2009

    It is generally a principal's decision to structure the periods in the day. IT IS NOT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM that decides to add the 45 minute sessions for the kids. This school should be looked at closer instead of the system being blamed for not implementing this in other schools.

  • SME2 Sep 4, 2009

    wow! so here we have proof positive that all this 'diversity' busing all over the county is worthless?? woo! think of all the money we can reallocate to where it will REALLY count! and no, i don't mean to line pockets!- YourMileageMayVary

    Actually this story proves that diversity based on SES works. Lead Mine Elementary is included in the same program all other WCPSS schools are in. The system works if #1 the teachers care and #2 the parents actually care. Do you really think this is all because of one factor or another?

  • MakoII Sep 3, 2009


    Kids aren't forced. Their parent can request that they not watch it.

    BTW, why wouldn't you want your kid to see the President of the United States?

    I swear, there's a lot of treasonous talk. I've met many a Palestinian who talked nicer about this country than some GOLO conservative posters.

    Where is your respect for the office?

  • MakoII Sep 3, 2009


    There are a lot of teachers hired who aren't certified, or their certification has lapsed, or they are certified in another state and require one here.

    You are right though, a math major hired as a teacher without certification would be required to get it within a specified time period.

    Another thing public has that private doesn't necessarily is "continuing education" where they have to get 15 credits every few years to MAINTAIN their certification. And they do this on their OWN time. They don't get paid for it.

    Pound for Pound, Public School teachers are hand's down more educated.

    The differences are that private filters out poor behavior, poor, bad grades and keep low class sizes. Because of low class sizes, they need to spread the money around, and the means less for teacher salary, hence they seek the bottom of the barrel or newbies before they are certified.

  • superman Sep 3, 2009

    News flash-- I dont think Wake County hires any teachers that are not certified! A school system would have to be desperate to hire anyone that is not certified in the area in which they are teaching. I think that even if a person was hired that is not certified, they have only 3 years to be certified or they lose their job.

  • ghimmy51 Sep 3, 2009

    This shows money doesn't buy education. Teachers educate. It can be done under a tree. If you have a motivated teacher it doesn't matter how much they make. We have been throwing money at the problem for decades and it's getting worse. It's time to put some uncommon sense into the equation. TEST TEACHERS based on their RESULTS with students! We MUST look at all teachers as if we hired them to teach our child personally. If the teacher has the resources and cooperation needed and my child doesn't learn the teacher is FIRED!