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Back to School: Low performing school working toward improvements

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WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
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Buffalo Public School children begin a new school year Thursday, but many city students are heading back to low-performing schools.  In this Focus on Education report, WBFO's Eileen Buckley takes us inside Public School #80 Highgate Heights Elementary.

"Currently our test scores are low, but we're in the process of working really, really hard to make sure it improves and we have a lot to offer our community,"  Highgate Heights principal Gayle Irving-White begins her 8th year at the school.

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Highgate Heights Principal Gayle Irving-White, wearing her "Ready Freddy" T-shirt that promotes school attendance for students.

Highgate is a Buffalo Promise Neighborhood School in the city's Kensington section.  Student tests scores have remained low, but school leadership and teachers are in the process of working hard to improve student performance.  That is why teachers just completed three weeks of professional development.

"They're learning how to differentiate their instruction to meet the needs of the students in the classroom," said Irving-White. "We've talk about explicit instruction. They receive a lot of professional development on that. Responsive classroom and how to positively impact our students and their behavior."

Results of state assessments for Highgate shows  drop in English for 2014 for 3rd, 6th and 7th graders compared to 2012 test scores.  But but for 4th 5th and 8th grades scores improved slightly or stayed the same. In Math -- tests results for third graders are climbed back slightly this year from 2012, but 4th graders showed little improvement.  5th and 6h graders had a slight decrease, and for 7th and 8th graders,  the results remain low.

Teacher Gregelle Fulcher is a literacy coach at Highgate Heights. 

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Highgate Heights library
"For the students, we need to build in or encourage more of community with them," said Fulcher. "And we need to have them doing more reading if we want them to read better."

"For the students, we need to build in or encourage more of community with them," said Fulcher.  "And we need to have them doing more reading if we want them to read better."

Highgate is also an EPO school - that stands for Educational Partnership Organization.  The school is working to create a positive experience for parents so they know there is support in educating their children.  The Booker family is excited for their 4-year-old to begin Pre-K this school year.  

"So it's walking distance, so it's part of our community so we're very excited."   I hope it gets better and I know it's going to take a little time, and right now, I guess they are doing the best they can, but us -- as parents -- we've got to start at home schooling our kids.

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The Booker family is ready for their 4-year-old to begin Pre-k.

But the Booker's said education starts at home. "Me, as a parent, and my wife, we do all we can for our kids," said the Booker's. 

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Looking into a Highgate classroom.

Nearly 500-students in Pre-k- through 8th are about to begin a new school year at Highgate Heights.          Principal Irving-White will be greeting them outside Thursday morning.

WBFO News asked Principal Irving-White how she keeps her passion for education.

"I keep my passion with my little ones  Just seeing my future students -- looks on their face," said Irving-White. 

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Outside Highgate attendance banner hangs.

Highgate Heights is also working to promote attendance.   A large "Attendance Counts" banner is stretched across the pillars of the school building. 

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