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Following Federal Orders

Here's how Karen Redel leaves no child behind in her kindergarten class: cancel nap time, dismantle the "housekeeping center" where kids played house and teach reading.

Mostly, she demands that children master the basics before first grade.

"At first, I thought, 'They can't do that,' " said Redel, an 18-year teaching veteran.

But her students at Rolling Hills Elementary School can and do learn to read, seeming to thrive on the challenge. In class last week, 6-year-old Marcus Cote-Bunch spelled fan for Redel, then stopped to study the word.

"If you put a t at the end," Marcus says, "it's fat."

Most of Marcus' classmates also are beginning to read -- displaying first-grade skills and academic success at a school with demographics that often mean failure. Most of its students are poor minorities.

Much of what's required under No Child Left Behind, President Bush's ambitious and controversial education-reform plan, already is on display, and embraced, at Rolling Hills in Orange County's Pine Hills neighborhood.

Under Principal Patrick Galatowitcsh, the school has bumped up expectations and turned kindergarten into a very academic year. That helped the school earn a B grade from the state last year, after a C and two D's.

The changes are fine with Redel. So are the president's efforts to make improved public education a national priority.

"I think the overall goal is a good idea," she said, although the scrutiny on her profession has increased, too.

"You feel like there's a bit more pressure because everyone is looking at you," she said.

But her school is doing what the president wants, she says: making sure kids with lots of disadvantages get a solid education.

"I know if I'm doing what I'm supposed to," she said, "they'll meet all the national standards."

— Leslie Postal
Rolling Hills Elementary teacher returns to basics
Orlando Sentinel
Jan. 26, 2003


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