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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

East Prairie students score big, principal dyes hair

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(Photo)
Donna Turbo-Smith, principal at Martin Elementary in East Prairie, dons her new tri-colored hairstyle while Eva Hinshaw, Junior High principal, looks on.
EAST PRAIRIE -- Donna Turnbo-Smith admitted she broke a school rule when she transformed her hairstyle into a tri-colored one -- but it was all for the kids.

Last spring the principal at Martin Elementary in East Prairie challenged her students to score 2 percent above the state's goals on the standardized Missouri Assessment Program test. Their reward? She would dye her hair three colors and wear it that way for one month.

So on Monday, the normally blonde Turnbo-Smith unveiled her new hair color (or colors) -- red, white and black, which are the school's colors.

"It's black around the bottom. Around the face part is blonde, and blends from black to red," Turnbo-Smith said. "It's three big stripes you can see yet it's not so drastic I can't be seen in public."

Turnbo-Smith hid behind the curtains on the stage in the school cafeteria while her students gathered Monday morning. Then she revealed her new 'do as she stepped from behind the curtains, creating cheers and screams from the children.

"It was a very good reaction," Turnbo-Smith said.

The initial terms were for 45 percent of the students to score at the proficient or advanced levels in reading and 38 percent in math. Students wound up scoring 44.3 percent in reading and 58.8 percent in math.

"I know they were seven-tenths within the reading goal, however, in math they scored 20 percent more than I asked so that was worth it. And they did meet the state's goals," Turnbo-Smith pointed out.

Turnbo-Smith said a professional colored her hair on Friday after school, and she hid out all weekend so no one would sneak a peek of her new look.

"You might see a lot of the younger, younger kids wear their hair this way but not someone my age," the 45-year-old principal said.

Turnbo-Smith said her 16-year-old son is embarrassed by his mother's new hairdo.

And she's already had to explain the hairdo to curious onlookers outside of the school district.

"I know they're looking and doing double takes," Turnbo-Smith said. Improving test scores is something the school has worked on for a while now, Turnbo-Smith said.

"We looked at our scores, and then we looked at the kids' scores. Our biggest deficiency was in reading. The kids were having trouble reading," Turnbo-

Smith said.

The staff started focusing their professional development toward communication arts and putting an emphasis on changing the way they taught reading, Turnbo-Smith said.

In math, teachers have taken Missouri grade level expectations and started using a pacing chart and common assessments to determine where they need to retouch and do more fine tuning on their data.

Turnbo-Smith said success is due to everyone's willingness to try.

"If you have a staff that's fixed in one way of teaching, you're going to have trouble," Turnbo-Smith said. "If you have a staff willing to try new things then things are going to change, and you will have positives come out of it."

While Martin Elementary wasn't the only school in the area to improve their scores on the state test, the East Prairie R-2 School District was one of only a few in the area to not be deemed by the state as needing improvement this year.

As a whole, the school district met the state's annual proficiency targets for 2007. The 2007 proficiency targets were 42.9 percent in reading and 35.8 percent in math. East Prairie scored 43 percent in reading and 52.2 percent in math.

Superintendent Scott Downing said scores were very good throughout the district.

"We've had really good gains in our MAP achievement Two years in a row. It's become a focus of the administration, staff, parents and students," Downing said. "The kids are working hard. ... I am very, very proud."

Downing wasn't quick to boast; he knows the district or one of its buildings could very well end up on the state's "needing improvement" list in the future.

Meanwhile, Turnbo-Smith said she told the students to be thinking about next year. She said she's been thinking about setting different levels of achievement with different rewards based on 2007-2008 test scores.

But, Turnbo-Smith said, she does have limits: "I don't shave my head."