Bester's big success story

June 27, 2006

There were no fireworks and no marching bands at Hagerstown's Bester Elementary at the end of this school year, but there should have been.

As noted in a front-page story in Sunday's edition of The Herald-Mail, Bester's academic makeover was a great success. We congratulate the students, teachers and administrators who worked together to make this happen.

Bester, which draws from some of the city's most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, has long had a problem with poor academic performance.

Then the federal No Child Left Behind Act removed settling for the status quo as an option. And so, using a model that had already led to success at Eastern Elementary School, Bester began a three-year restructuring program.


Teachers who wanted to participate had to reapply for their jobs. Those who stayed were given an extra $5,000 a year for working more hours and getting extra training.

Under the leadership of Principal Kathy Stiles, test scores improved, as did discipline and the number of community volunteers.

The result: The school's third- and fourth-graders greatly improved their scores on state math and reading tests.

Fifth-graders did not show as much improvement, which Stiles said was because they were further behind at the start of the school year and weren't used to the high expectations.

Not all of those expectations have been fulfilled, but thanks to the team at Bester, itseems it won't be a matter of whether it will happen, but when.

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