OGDEN -- Dee Elementary is moving up.
The school has raised its end-of-level test scores by nearly 40 percent and is no longer the worst elementary school in the state.
Odyssey Elementary also significantly improved its scores and state officials noticed.
State Superintendent of Education Larry Shumway visited the teachers and staffs of both schools at Dee Elementary Wednesday morning for breakfast and a celebration.
Shumway mingled and visited with teachers as they ate breakfast. He congratulated them on their hard work and asked them what their needs were. Many quickly responded with more resources and money to work with the students. For others, the need is for more time.
The two schools, along with James Madison, are in the second year of a School Improvement Grant, a multi-million dollar grant that spans three years and set up to help failing schools succeed.
As part of that grant the schools have been working with the University of Virginia special leadership program set up to enhance collaboration and examine data.
Dee Principal Sondra Jolovich-Motes feels that training has been a key to helping her teachers, students and administration succeed. SIG money has made it possible for the school to be part of the UV program.
Teachers and administrators wore pink rose corsages in honor of the good news and are all feeling pretty optimistic about the future at their schools.
"It feels so good to be here," Shumway told the room full of teachers. He told the teachers that this was a "break year", meaning a year to "break away from the past."
"The leadership you've had, the commitment you've made has made a difference in your individual classrooms," he said.
He also praised Jolovich-Motes and Odyssey Principal Dale Wilkinson, but both were quick to turn the praise from themselves back to the teachers.
Jolovich-Motes talked about how the teachers last year set a goal to come back with at least 60 percent proficiency in test scores.
"Everyone took a deep breath. You didn't run, you embraced it," she said.
Now that the students have reached that goal, she said her teachers have set a higher goal for next year of 80 to 90 percent proficiency.
"We will no longer send students on that are unlikely to graduate...these have been big, audacious goals and we have embraced them," Jolovich-Motes said.
Odyssey fifth grade teacher Shelley Hughes was pleased Shumway came to celebrate with the schools. "It shows we get support and they know we worked hard to get gains," she said.
Teachers like the fact that Dee is now being looked at for its achievements.
"For so long we have been under a magnifying glass for not doing good," said Laura Jones.
"And now we under a magnifying glass for doing something good," said fellow Dee teacher Rebekah Blume.
Shumway said teachers were always working hard to get students to perform better, but the extra training and looking at things from a different perspective have been key to success.
He's not surprised staff and students reached the benchmarks they set for themselves. "It's a pleasure to see them do as well as they are," he said.
Jolovich-Motes said the additional instructional coaches, an extra teacher and increased collaboration have made a huge difference.
District Superintendent Brad Smith said teachers and administrators also have learned how to look at test score data and make it work immediately in their favor.
Smith also paid teachers high praise. He said one of the biggest compliments he could be paid was to be called an advocate and then told the teachers that's what they were for students who struggle with poverty and other issues that many don't understand.
"I'm honored to be around advocates," Smith said.