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Tri-City Herald - Kennewick, WA
Friday, March 6, 1998
"Kennewick Class in Line for National Acclaim"
by Wendy Culverwell - Herald Staff Writer
Brandon Rothwell, 14, is earning A's in four of his six classes at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School in Kennewick. Trouble is, he's struggling in the other two. By his own admission, he's failing history and health and may have to take summer school to keep from repeating eighth grade.

But Rothwell, like hundreds of other students struggling with their studies in middle school, has a chance to bring his grades up and walk into high school on the merits of his own academic record.

Instead of taking a regular elective, Rothwell is taking "Personal Social Responsibility" from Liz White. The class--PSR for short--is a key element of Kennewick's accountability program.

...The PSR class teaches students to be responsible for their actions. White sets aside some days for students to work on their homework and teaches kids how to overcome the obstacles in their lives on other days.

In April, a national education magazine will honor Kennewick's accountability program with its top honor: the Magna Award. The district won a Magna Award last year for its third grade reading goal. That was one of 22 awards given out last year.

This year, Kennewick is the recipient of The American School Board Journal's grand prize, and school officials are thrilled by the recognition. The citation applauds Kennewick "for its effort to make sure middle school students are fully prepared for the challenges of high school."

"We think that's a great honor to be selected for our second Magna in a row," said Superintendent Paul Rosier.

Two years ago, the Kennewick School Board scrapped the "social promotions" policy, which nearly guaranteed that students would advance to the next level, regardless of their grades. In its place, the board adopted a policy that requires students to do the work before they can be promoted to high school. At the same time, it created a slate of programs to help students in trouble.

...The PSR class began as a summer school class, but has worked so well it's offered during the regular year. According to Rosier, 874 students have been affected by the accountability program since it started. Of those, 624 shaped up during the school year and advanced to high school on their own.

...Rosier said the accountability program was designed so kids would have a clear set of expectations through school and so they would be prepared for the reality of high school. Kids who skated through middle school were more likely to become high school dropouts, he said.

The middle school program has been such a success, Kennewick is now enforcing similar do-the-work requirements on elementary students.

Kennewick Awarded 1998 Magna Awards Grand Prize

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P.O. Box 880, La Luz, NM USA  88337 800-745-0418 fax 575-437-0524
e-mail: iasd@zianet.com