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TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Students teach teacher at area elementary school

It takes a special teacher to learn from those she is supposed to teach.

Nikki Hawkins is such a teacher.

Like teachers throughout the state, Ms. Hawkins worries about her students' performance on Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, an aptitude test usually referred to as DIBELS. The tests are important both for individual students and for the school as a whole. Not surprisingly, students dislike both the test itself and the rigorous pre-test preparation.

Ms. Hawkins suspected the students' attitudes toward the test were negatively impacting their test scores. There are many resources available on the issue such as education journals, more experienced teachers, universities and principals.

But Ms. Hawkins asked the foremost experts on testing. Her students.

Third-grader Michael Gibson was capable of doing well on the test but was unmotivated. His view of football practice was entirely different. He understood that practice and hard work have a direct correlation to football success.

"I told him practice makes you win games and get better," Ms. Hawkins said. "But he said the difference is he gets to wear a team shirt when he plays football. A jersey helps him focus and want to win."

Ms. Hawkins, a reading coach at Frances Nungester Elementary, took the hint. She developed a team-based approach, complete with slogans, cheers and bandanas.

"It got them in a team spirit," Ms. Hawkins said. "We wanted to make them understand that this is not just an individual effort and it's not just another test."

Ms. Hawkins is one more reason that Decatur City Schools are tops.

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