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Will Rodgers (photo by Brandon Wise)

WILL ROGERS — After years of working by late principal Irma Lyons’ motto of “blood, sweat and tears,” Will Rogers Learning Community has received a 2010 Title 1 Academic Achievement Award. Will Rogers, a kindergarten through fifth grade elementary school, received the award after meeting and surpassing 2008 and 2009 national and state academic standards.

The school showed sufficient growth through a national test measuring Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and tested above a state-wide Academic Performance Index (API) target of 800, said Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Matthews.

The school reached this level of academic performance through incremental growth, he said.

“They’re not really pushing a number,” Matthews said. “They’re saying, when we look at our scores last year, we’re looking at concerns in these areas and here’s what we’re doing to address that.”

Between 2004 and 2009, the school’s API grew from 754 to 814. Matthews said this growth is in part the result of the teachers at Will Rogers getting on the same page and moving together toward a common objective.

One goal the teachers worked toward was the successful implementation of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program three and a half years ago. The school started by focusing on mathematics, then opening a science lab, and now are busy building content and integrating these elements into all subject areas, said Mary Anna Noveck, assistant principal. Noveck said STEM adds a level of engagement for the students, along with an arts integration program.

“I think it gives kids other ways to learn,” Noveck said.

Both Noveck and Matthews credit Lyons with making the biggest impact on the school’s achievements.

“[She] just had a spirit about her that helped the staff to gather around her,” Matthews said.

Noveck said Lyons encouraged working by two words.

“They were joy and rigor,” said Noveck. “I really do believe that is the formula and so I continue with that.”

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