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Jeff Dezort/Staff

Six students from Western Grove School, (from left) Donnie Flud, Hailey Collins, Hannah Wheeler, Jayden Bradshaw, Lane Garner and Havan Vanzant, received special recognition for earning “Exceeding” scores in English, reading, science and math of the Arkansas ACT Aspire test taken last year.

WESTERN GROVE — Six students from Western Grove School received special recognition for earning “Exceeding” scores in all four areas of the Arkansas ACT Aspire test during a special assembly held at the school last Thursday afternoon, Sept. 5. Many more students were also recognized for their performance on the benchmark tests taken during the 2018-19 school year.

The students cited for exceptional work in English, reading, science and math were: fourth grade, Hailey Collins; Donnie Flud and Havan Vanzant; fifth grade, Hannah Wheeler; and seventh grade, Jayden Bradshaw and Lane Garner.

School principal Billy Carter said the school has recognized students for achievements in the past through the Terrific Kids and Warrior of the Month programs.

"This is the first year to ramp it up for our ACT Aspire tests," he said.

Terin C. Hollis, the school's RTI (Response to Intervention) director, said she has been tracking the test results at the school the past three years and this is the most students to receive the "Exceeding" designation during that time.

Carter said the teachers are an important part of the formula for success, but he said students have been given incentives to work hard and perform well on the tests.

Students have been given a variety of parties and allowed to take trips, anything that would help to get them excited about taking the tests, Carter said.

Hollis said taking tests can be strenuous for students and it is important that they earn something extrinsic for doing so and doing well. It helps the students to know that teachers care and that the students' hard work is recognized and appreciated.

A cookie party, an ice cream party and a trip to Branson, Missouri, to see a movie are some of the past incentives provided to the students.

Every student K-6 went on the trip to the movie because all of them increased their achievement level at the end of the school year, said Hollis.

RTI has also been a key part of the success, Carter added. Students who need help are being identified earlier.

A few years ago, the school set a goal to reach. That goal is to have every student on track in reading and math by third grade, Carter said.

The school also participates in the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence. RISE, as it's called, is a partnership of students, parents and community members to build a culture of reading in the school and at home.

The goal of the campaign is to increase the number of students in grades three through eight who meet the ACT Aspire reading readiness benchmark by 10% within three years; rise above the bottom third in state comparisons within five years on the fourth-grade reading assessment and increase the number of graduates meeting the ACT reading readiness benchmark by 10% within five years.

Hollis said students' progress is being recorded through testing every nine weeks. "I use progress monitoring. I watch their growth and it gives me a prediction of how well they are going to do, or it gives me a prediction that I need to get a hold of these students and work harder with them." It’s a way of monitoring child by child, she explained.

During the assembly, Hollis announced those students who met their benchmark scores with "Ready" or "Exceeding" designations on testing last year. Carter presented them with a special certificate and with tickets for free a la cart items from the cafeteria. Students who earned "Exceeding" expectation scores on the test were additionally rewarded with a personal day off from school.

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