Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The eastern Nebraska town of Arlington is celebrating this week. Their students posted top scores on the statewide writing assessment of the Nebraska Department of Education. It was Page One news of the Arlington Citizen, and superintendent Steve Schneider said school staff members are “ecstatic.”

Overall, 96 percent of Arlington’s students met or exceeded the standards for writing devised by the state to measure individual student writing effectiveness.

In Arlington, 93.75 percent of the fourth-graders matched or beat state standards. Among eighth-graders, 95.92 percent did it, and 98.48 percent of the 11th graders met the mark.

The scores were dramatically better than in 2001, when they ranged in the 70th percentiles in Arlington, according to the newspaper.

How did this turnaround occur? Did they spend an enormous amount of money? Hire a busload of new teachers? Get everybody and their dog a laptop?

No! Arlington simply emphasized good writing across the curriculum, not just in English class; instituted the DEAR program (Drop Everything and Read), and placed written schoolwork in the hallways for all students to read. The last idea, incidentally, was the students’ idea, school staffers said.

The success just proves once again that more money doesn’t produce better academics. In fact, the old-fashioned, inexpensive, common-sense methods give kids what they need, and produce the kinds of results that are making Arlington hold its head high.

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