'No Excuses' at northern New York elementary school - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

'No Excuses' at northern New York elementary school

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An elementary school in the North Country has earned membership to a nationwide educational association called No Excuses University.

AuSable Forks Elementary has 250 students, 24 teachers and an average class size of 16. The district's budget is $30 million.

Every Friday, the 250 students at AuSable Forks Elementary show their spirit for higher education by sporting college gear. The event is one of many new strategies the school has applied in the past year and a half in order to earn membership into No Excuses University, also known as NEU.

"We want everyone in this building to know that it is our job to prepare each student in such a way that they can go to college if they so choose," says Principal Gigi Mason.

No Excuses University is a nationwide association that provides schools opportunities to both network and develop their educational practices at no cost. In January, AuSable Forks Elementary earned membership to the organization after proving its success in following six exceptional systems set up by NEU.

"It's been a really powerful shift, because before we had NEU, we were all in our own little classrooms doing our own thing, but now we're one collegial group working together for one common goal," says 4th grade teacher Laurie Estes.

NEU's six exceptional systems required the school exhibit a culture of universal achievement, collaboration, alignment of standards, assessment, management of data, and intervention. Educators say through the process, they saw as much as an 80 percent growth amongst students in some subjects.

"Kids to become more focused on their own learning, and they've taken ownership of their own learning and a lot of teachers do data binders and kids are tracking their own student growth," says June Zerrahn, an intervention teacher and data coordinator.

NEU's overall goal is to ensure students are being educated in a way that prepares them for college.

In order to help the kids get excited about college, each of the 15 classes has chosen a different college or university from across the nation to represent.Superintendent Paul Savage says he's happy the district is approaching the topic of college for students at a young age.

"Why wait until later in the years. Why wait until the opportunities come when you're in high school or others. Get them exposed early on when they can talk the conversation and get the feel more about what colleges are about," he says.

Only three schools statewide have gained membership to the No Excuses University Network. AuSable Forks Elementary is the second school in its district to join, with Keeseville Elementary having joined in 2013.

Nationwide, more than 200 schools are members of the No Excuses University network.

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