Schools in Ogden performing better after intervention

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OGDEN, Utah -- Dee Elementary School in Ogden School District has been the lowest performing school in the state for years, but in 2010 the district was given a multi-million dollar improvement grant to help failing schools, like Dee, succeed.

“Our students wanted to learn so badly they just didn't know how to be successful,” said Sondra Jolovich-Motes, who is the principal at Dee Elementary School.

With the funds, Motes was sent to a special leadership program at the University of Virginia. She came back with training and began research on the school's teachers and students.

“Our task as a whole Dee team was to make the necessary changes to identify the root causes of why we're the lowest performing school in the state historically and to improve our student learning,” Motes said.

During the first year, the school's test scores increased by nearly 40 percent. But what caused this turn around? In addition to increased teacher and parent involvement, Motes said the staff paid close attention to each students' individual learning needs.

“We’ve helped our students to get past that frustration and realize, 'I can learn this, I just have to work really hard,'” Motes said.

With the new changes, students have been getting higher and higher test scores each year. But it wasn't until just a few weeks ago the school received a letter from the Utah State Office of Education announcing that the school has official exited out of priority status.

"Dee is a great indicator of the progress that our teachers and employees are making in many of our schools,” Said Zac Williams, who is the director of communication for Ogden School District.

Now Dee, along with all the other schools in the Ogden School District, are out of the bottom 10 percent of the state, and they plan on getting better each year.

This change is the best thing that's happened at this school and it will continue too,” said Ursula Jones Chamberlain, who teaches third grade at Dee Elementary School.