Just inside the entrance of Britton Elementary School, a baby bison looks up to his full-grown brother. Both are decorated with the rainbow-colored handprints of about 350 students.
Principal Kimberly Zachery purchased the statues this year to celebrate her school's mascot — the baby bison.
But the buffalos also are a nod to the Oklahoma Centennial Bisons, the mascot of the middle school and high school Britton Elementary students are zoned to attend.
“Centennial is my school, too,” Zachery said. “I always have said we need to make sure we're ready for high school.”
It wasn't until this year, Zachery said, that she learned there were serious issues at Oklahoma Centennial Middle High School.
“I thought things were going fine here and the kids who I was sending over there were good kids,” she said. “These are my babies. I've seen these children born.”
But Centennial will be on a plan for improvement next year as the school works to improve test scores that in 2009-10 school year were the worst in the state of any regular-academic school.
The federal government is providing $11 million to help Oklahoma City Public Schools turn around the academics at Centennial, and next year the school will be under new leadership with a principal coming from Texas.
Five elementary schools in north Oklahoma City feed into Centennial: Britton, North Highland, Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village, Horace Mann and Greystone, formerly Eisenhower.
Horace Mann and Western Village send few students to Centennial for middle school.
“That's been a trend since before Centennial existed,” said George Kimball, Oklahoma City Public Schools, chief information officer. “That holds true across the district.”
Horace Mann had nine students living in its attendance zone who attended Centennial this school year out of a fifth-grade class of about 30 students.
Principal Judy Jones said a majority of her students enroll in Classen School of Advanced Studies, Independence Charter Middle School or Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School. Two of those schools have admissions standards and students must apply and show high academic performance to be admitted.
“We've always had a working relationship with Centennial, but the majority of our students, due to their high performance academically, elect to go to schools with high academic challenges,” Jones said. Academic slide
Because of changes in testing it's hard to compare how students perform in fifth-grade to how they perform in middle school.
Deputy Superintendent Sandra Park said they are completely different tests.
“We accept some regression at transitional years, but do not accept great decline in performance,” Park said.
“When we look at student's reading ability or math performance you probably shouldn't see a huge gap.”
Going back to the 2007-08 school year, when testing remained the same for two-consecutive years, some loose comparisons can be made.
Approximately 80 percent of fifth-graders at the three schools that send the most students to Centennial were performing at the fifth-grade level in reading and math.