School success

Carver Elementary teamwork fosters rewards for students

Joey Matthews | 2/6/2015, 12:57 p.m.
“We take an all-hands-on-deck approach to educating our children.” That’s how George Washington Carver Elementary School Principal Kiwana Yates enthusiastically ...
Carver Principal Kiwana Yates gives kindergarten student Jajuan Dickerson a high-five for a job well done. Photo by Sandra Sellars

“We take an all-hands-on-deck approach to educating our children.”

That’s how George Washington Carver Elementary School Principal Kiwana Yates enthusiastically describes the full community involvement approach she and her staff utilize.

With it, they have achieved academic success against tall odds in the largely impoverished community served by the school at 1110 W. Leigh St.

“Each school faces different challenges,” the third-year Carver principal told the Free Press. “A kid is a kid, and it doesn’t really matter where they come from. It takes a level of excellence from the teacher and the ability of the school to meet the needs of each child.”

Carver is among only 11 of Richmond’s 44 public schools to earn full accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education after surpassing state standards in four core Standards of Learning tests administered last spring.

Carver, with 95 percent of its 592 students in kindergarten through fifth grade being African-American, scored an average of 90 in science, 88 in English and 84 each in math and history. At least 75 percent of a school’s students must pass English and at least 70 percent must pass the other three tests in order for the school to be fully accredited.

Carver also has been recognized as a Title I Distinguished School by the Virginia Department of Education. To qualify, a disadvantaged school receiving additional federal aid must meet all state and federal accountability requirements for two years and achieve average reading and mathematic SOL scores at the 60th percentile or higher.

The school’s theme this year is “The Jewel of the Carver Community.”

Early in the school year, Ms. Yates and her staff organized an “SOLabration,” a day of creative learning activities capped by a family fun night to recognize their accreditation. Staff wore “SOLabration” shirts to mark the day.

Another family fun night is scheduled in March.

Carver also has hosted four “chat and chew” informational sessions prior to school with parents and other guardians to discuss a range of issues affecting their children.

At one, parents were good-naturedly provided gender-specific refreshments, muffins for the five mothers, donuts for the two dads.

Ms. Yates said a big reason for the school’s SOL success is, “We align our curriculum” with the Virginia Department of Education to ensure teachers and students are in sync and fully prepared for the tests.

She touted VDOE’s enVision MATH instructional materials as “phenomenal,” the use of vocabulary flashcards at every grade level, benchmark literary reading programs and SOL preparatory tests available online for children to take.

Ms. Yates also praised the school’s Carver Promise Mentoring program. It pairs volunteer mentors with students in first through fifth grades for an hour each week to work on academic and social activities.

“We have the largest mentoring program in the state and maybe in the nation,” program coordinator Casey Rogers said.

She said the program currently has about 370 volunteers, enough to have one-on-one mentoring for every student in first through fifth grades.

The program, in operation since 1992 and partnered with Communities in Schools of Richmond since 2009, won the state’s Chairman’s Award in 2013 for its sustained commitment to mentoring, Ms. Rogers noted.