Wearing jeans and brightly colored baseball caps, fourth-graders from Walker-Jones Elementary School pranced on stage in a skit about Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts baseball team, who were trying to decide what to do about the team's losing streak. They found an answer in teamwork.
This performance last week at the Terrell Elementary School in Anacostia helped mark the year's culminatin of the D.C. schools' Title I Program, which gave special help in reading and math to 20,280 disadvantaged students.
This was the first year since the program began in the last 1960s that Title I reading and math teachers made a concerted, systematic effort to work as a team with regular classroom teachers and with art, music and physical education teachers to improve their students' reading and math skills. p
In previous years, some school officials had criticized the $17 million program for taking students out of their regular classroom for one and a half hours of special instruction each week that was not always correlated with the work the students were doing in regular classes.
These critics also pointed to the often marginal improvements the Title I students made from year to year.
But that changed this year, said Anne Pitts, the District's Title I director. "What we did was teaming, bringing in the educational aides, the parents, Title I teachers and classroom teachers. We meet regularly to assess the needs of the students. . . . This is important, not to work in isolation," Pitts said.
As a result, Acting Superintendent James T. Guines and some school principals have credited Title I teachers with helping to reduce the number of elementary students who failed at the mid-year promotion point under the school system's new and tougher standards for promotion.
In January, about 10,600 students in grades one through three failed to master the skills required for promotion under the new standards. Now that the failing students have received extra help from their classroom teachers, Title I teachers and volunteer tutors, school officials expect only 3,800 will not be promoted to the next grade.
The activities at Terrell last week were meant to show off the talents of the youngsters in the Title I program and to highlight this year's interdisciplinary approach.
The show included a recital of the poem "Trees" by McGogney Elementary kindergarten students; a calypso dance by youngsters from Amidon Elementary; a skit inspired by a Langston Hughes poem by students at Douglass Junior High students; and a performance by Vincent Kilpatrict, a Johnson Junior High student in this year's pilot Title I reading project for ninth graders, who sang "Still" and "Lady" just like one of the Commodores.
Wearing pink bunny ears, the kindergarten students in the Syphax Elementary "Bunny Band" stole the show as they banged away with drumsticks on slabs of wood, upside down pails and paper plates made to look like cymbals, in perfect rhythm to a selection of disco tunes.