Alameda Elementary School has received an award for having one of the state's 10 best programs to educate students who have fallen behind in their studies.
The school also has been nominated for a national award for the so-called Chapter 1 program, which is federally funded, state Department of Education official Aurora C. Barrozo said.
Chapter 1 programs provide extra reading and math instruction primarily for children from families that are receiving welfare, but other struggling students can receive the additional help as well, Downey school officials said. There are about 3,400 schools in California that have Chapter 1 programs, Barrozo said. Alameda will serve as a model for other schools in the state.
"It's really an exemplary program," said Carole Ellis, one of the state educators who evaluated Alameda.
The three-member state team that evaluated Alameda school said test scores of students in the Chapter 1 program were the key indicators of the program's success.
On the 1989 California Assessment Program test, for example, Alameda's Chapter 1 third-graders scored well above the districtwide and statewide averages for similar students. The Alameda students had an average reading score of 285, while the district and state averages were 224 and 215, respectively.
About 225 of the 680 students at Alameda receive the special assistance, Chapter 1 teacher Sue Dunlap said.
They come from various backgrounds and have different reasons for their problems at school. Two of the students, for example, entered school years late because they had lived with their grandfather, whose job kept the family hopscotching around the country, school officials said. Others come from poor families; the parents struggled to make ends meet and did not help their children learn to read.
Dunlap and three aides provide the additional Chapter 1 instruction during standard classroom lessons and to small groups of students who are separated from their peers.
On a recent morning, aide Annette Bliss had taken aside four kindergarten children to hone their motor and counting skills. She had them stand on one foot while they counted to 10.
In nearby third-grade and fifth-grade classrooms, other aides helped Spanish-speaking students individually with their reading and vocabulary while the classroom teachers continued their lessons.
In the afternoons, Dunlap teaches various learning skills, including eye training for reading, to small groups in a trailer that serves as her office and small classroom. Computers and special machines are available to help students with their math.
Dunlap said part of her program's objective is to allow Chapter 1 students to deal directly with an instructor or aide to reinforce their classroom lessons. Classroom teachers do not have the time to devote such attention to individual students.
"It's not that (Chapter 1 students) didn't understand the presentation," Dunlap said. "They didn't have a chance to recite it back."
There is tutoring after school on Mondays and Wednesdays for second- through fifth-graders. Overall school programs, such as a peer tutoring program during recesses, aid Chapter 1 students as well, Dunlap said.
Dunlap said she tries to get parents more involved in their children's education with quarterly meetings and workshops on study skills and other topics.
"Some of the parents don't know how to help them," Alameda Principal Karen Nadell said.
Over the past two years, the school has been changing its Chapter 1 program to include more instruction in the regular classroom, rather than separating Chapter 1 students into small groups, Dunlap said. Federal and state education officials have been urging schools to adopt the in-class approach because it is less disruptive for Chapter 1 students, she said.
But Nadell and Dunlap said the main reason for the school's Chapter 1 success is the commitment of program instructors and the cooperation of the other classroom teachers.
Alameda is one of six elementary schools in the Downey Unified School District that have Chapter 1 programs. It is the second time in recent years that a district school has been recognized for an outstanding Chapter 1 program. Imperial Elementary School received state and national awards for its program in 1987.
Overall, the district will receive $739,086 in Chapter 1 funds this year, said Shirley Lubin, the district's Chapter 1 specialist. Alameda has about $116,000 to spend on its Chapter 1 program this year, Lubin said. Most of that money pays for salaries and benefits of Alameda's Chapter 1 employees, Lubin said.