Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Highlights for New Town Neighborhood

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Highlights for New Town Neighborhood

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Crooks

Behind the state's school grades of D at S.P. Livingston Elementary and the F at Eugene Butler Middle School is a different story.

As participants at a New Town Success Zone planning meeting recently learned, the FCATs reported only a partial truth.

Of the 567 students at Livingston, 80, or almost 15 percent, are in a self-contained program for youngsters with disabilities.

Their scores, sometimes as low as zero, are factored into school averages. By contrast, 90 percent of the 179 youngsters enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club Team Up program at the school were promoted to the next grade. That's better than a D.

At Butler, a comparable proportion were either in the self-contained classes or the overage academy, pulling down that school's grades.

In contrast, 100 percent of the 182 youngsters in the Boys and Girls Club program were promoted. In effect, children receiving special attention in the afterschool programs did well. Due to limited funding, however, only 30 percent of Livingston students and 20 percent of Butler's currently participate.

Further evidence of New Town children doing well academically comes from United Way's Achievers for Life program. It focuses on sixth-graders entering Butler who have had problems with attendance, discipline, English or math.

Of 112 youngsters participating last year, 89 percent were promoted to seventh grade, reports Melanie Patz, United Way vice president of community impact.

If all Butler students had the advantage of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters involvement as these youngsters did, the school might be ranked an A or B.

Thus school rankings by the state are incomplete. Clearly the New Town youngsters have handicaps ranging from poverty to poor parenting to sometimes poor health or nutrition. But with the support of the greater Jacksonville community, most can do well.

One reason for the children's successes in the two schools lies with parental involvement.

Many of the families participating in Achievers for Life attend United Way's Family Night activities.

With the Boys and Girls Club, an active parent group volunteers with their children, New Town coordinator Cedric Hicks reports. …

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