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Ferris works smart, tops county report card 

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RUSTY WELLER
Ellis County Press Managing Editor

Working smart as well as hard, Ferris Independent School District topped Ellis County's impressive report card for the 1999-2000 school year.

With three of its four schools achieving exemplary status from the Texas Education Agency, Ferris just missed the coveted exemplary district honor by a scant one half of one percentage point.

So, what lesson might be learned from Ferris' success?

'The key is working smart,' said Superintendent Larry Hairgrove. 'Every district has teachers and students working hard. We have a long-range plan, and we work it.'

A glance at TEA's online report card, and it's easy to see Ellis County students and teachers have been working hard. Eleven of the county's 51 schools rated exemplary, with 17 more earning recognized status. Nineteen were graded acceptable, with only four listed by the TEA as low performing. For more information, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2000/ on the Internet.

Led by Ferris, seven of the 10 school districts received 'recognized' ratings, including Midlothian, Palmer, Maypearl, Italy, Milford and Rice. Ennis, Waxahachie and Wilmer-Hutchins were rated acceptable.

Ferris schools earning exemplary ratings were the elementary, intermediate and high school. Ferris Junior High was graded acceptable.

Maypearl had two of its three schools judged exemplary - Maypearl High School and Maypearl Elementary. Two of Midlothian's six schools were exemplary -- Midlothian Middle School and Longbranch Elementary.

Other exemplary schools around Ellis County are Austin Elementary of Ennis, Stafford Elementary of Italy, Shields Elementary of Red Oak and Rice Elementary.

Waxahachie Wedgeworth and three Wilmer-Hutchins schools received low-performing marks, including Wilmer-Hutchins High School, Kennedy-Curry Middle School and Wilmer Elementary.

Ferris' superintendent credited several factors in his district working smart as well as hard to achieve exemplary results. 'It hasn't happened overnight,' said Hairgrove, who enters his third year at the district's helm. 'In our district, we look at things in the long run. It takes a long time.'

Here are some programs or efforts Hairgrove said produced good results for Ferris:

Time on task - 'We make sure each student has enough time to master material,' Hairgrove said. 'If they haven't had enough, we give them more to make sure there are no gaps. We've been doing this 10 years, and it's really paid off.'

Teaching TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) - 'We take a close look at TEKS and make sure we're meeting that curriculum,' Hairgrove said. 'Each subject and grade has particular objectives to meet. We look at the grade before and the grade after.'

High expectations - 'We expect all students to do well,' Hairgrove said. 'We set the bar high at a level they can reach.

'Curriculum alignment - 'We make sure as students go from one grade to the next that all previous requirements have been. We make sure they master what's required to advance.'

Vertical teaming - 'High school teachers talk to junior high teachers so students are better prepared,' he said. 'Again, we make sure we're not leaving gaps.

Early intervention - 'We recruit 3- and 4-yearold children from homes either economically disadvantaged or speak another language, such as Spanish,' Hairgrove said. 'It gives us extra time and really helps. Our kindergarten teachers rave about children who've gone through it.'

Reader recovery - 'We have one-on-one tutoring for students who need it,' he said. 'We start with those who have the most trouble in the first grade. It involves 45 minutes a day and really concentrates on learning to read.'

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Nelson Propane

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