A new state report shows more than half of Rockford students are not making the grade. Last year only 45 percent of students met Illinois test requirements. There is one school that district leaders can learn from.
Overall, Rockford schools continue an academic slide, but Nelson Elementary School's test scores are moving in the other direction.
"At the end of first grade, about five percent of our first graders were non-readers. They were just not reading, compared to other schools where it was 25 percent," says Dr. Bill Bursuck.
Nelson students are benefiting from a specialized reading program implemented by Northern Illinois University, a program that identifies barriers to reading comprehension and provides one-on-one tutoring for struggling students.
"They brought us in on the ground floor, so before anything happened with the students, they worked with and trained the teachers," teacher Sharon Bramel says.
Another program Nelson has implemented, math labs where students are broken into small groups and work on hands-on math activities.
"Instead of abstractly learning about measurements, they're measuring things. It's very hands on," adds Bramel.
But this program requires extra time and money. The grant that supports Nelson's pride reading program will expire soon.
"I keep hoping that the district will recognize it and say we really buy into this and it's working," says Bramel.
Teachers and students at Nelson hope district leaders are watching, listening and take a lesson from Nelson's success.
Statewide, 61 percent of students met state qualifications, compared to 45 in Rockford. Preliminary results show Nelson Elementary outperformed the district in most categories. The school should receive official scores Thursday.