OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City public school district officials announced Tuesday that they have been taken off of the state's needs improvement list.
They had to pass what's known, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, as the Annual Yearly Progress report, AYP, for two years in a row. That happens when enough individual schools in the district pass the AYP.
Northwest Classen High School was one of the district schools that had the unwanted distinction of needing improvement.
"Last year at this time, a very aggressive plan was put into action," Oklahoma City Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Cindy Schmidt said.
The district-wide plan included measures already being implemented at Classen by principal Tammie Sanders, most notably, getting teachers not just to teach, but also to build relationships with their students.
"They're not going to remember, maybe, all of their Algebra I class, but that one teacher that they build that relationship that makes them come to school and want to achieve and want to be a better person, and a better student; that's what they're trying to establish," Sanders said.
The school also hired additional teachers, making classes smaller and giving the teachers more opportunity to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
"I know a lot of parents hear a lot of things about AYP, or all the acronyms, and wonder, ‘What does that mean?'" Northwest Classen teacher Telannia Nortar said. "That means your child is on track, your child is going to be prepared at graduation, your child will have a better chance in the job market."
Northwest Classen students said the changes have been noticeable and significant.
"We see that they actually care and they actually want us to succeed and that helps me to want to live up to their expectations," student Alejandra Campos said.
"Two years ago, if --- would have done this, I wouldn't have been one of the ones chosen by Miss Sanders, my grades were very terrible," student Jimmy Owens said. "But, now I'm actually experiencing how it feels to be an honor roll student, and to get looked at by college for football."
Owens is an ambassador for the improvements in the district. He said he never thought he'd even finish high school. Now, he's planning on going to college and said he wants to start a business to help disadvantaged children.