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Color blue for success

Colony Oak teachers wear hair blue to celebrate students’ achievement

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Color blue for success

Colony Oak Principal Amy Carter – blue hair and all – is coaxed into a solo chant by one of the African dancers.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED November 27, 2012 1:50 a.m.

RIPON – The color blue is for success at Colony Oak Elementary School.

Teachers came to school Monday with blue hair to celebrate their students’ accomplishment – scoring the greatest increase in their API test scores within the Ripon Unified School District. Their academic performance eclipsed the previous year’s showing by eight points.

The tribute for the students also included a special performance by a troupe of African dancers.

Colony Oak’s total API test score was 877, up from last year’s 869. The school is targeting a score of at least 880 next year.

Principal Amy Carter said she had made a promise to her students prior to their tackling the arduous testing.  What students and teachers alike didn’t expect was that every student who surpassed his or her previous personal score – about 250 of them – will be receiving tickets to a Sacramento Kings Basketball game.  Their parents are being offered discounted tickets, as well, to attend the event with them, Carter said.

Each of the students had been given a yellow wrist band to wear before taking those tests to remind them of their expected goal that had been set by their teachers.  The goal, printed on the bands, was for an additional six points over last year’s results; however, the students went beyond that by another two points, the Colony Oak principal noted.

“It’s really the fulfillment of a lot of work that we have been involved with for a long time,” she added.

Carter opened the assembly telling her 450 students, “You listened to your teachers – you did your work – and you proved Colony Oak is a great school.”

She then welcomed a four-member dance troupe from Senegal to perform for the students from Senegal. The dancers proved they could rock the concrete walls with their drumming, singing, chants, acrobatics, stilt-walking, breath-taking native costumes and innovative choreography during the hour-long presentation which started at 1 p.m.

The program gave the students a glimpse of the folktales, culture and traditions of the performers’ homeland of Senegal.  The dancers are scheduled to perform again at Weston School in Ripon on Friday.  The event was made possible through cash register receipts of members of the Ripon community at area stores including Target.

The dance troupe led small groups of students in cultural dance routines, and got the teachers up on their feet as well in front of the student body while following the lead of professional African dancer Saundra Chase.

The dancers dressed in their native costumes, kept the assembly moving and the students cheering and in awe with their unexpected moves and their five-foot-high leaps into the air.  Lead dancer Oumar Niancho bounded to the side of the gym at one point and leaped up to the basketball hoop where he hung for at least 10 seconds by one hand with his feet and legs spread wide before dropping again to the floor. 

The Ripon principal is on a mission for excellence,  going the extra mile with her teachers to prepare for the upcoming API testing with the expectations of her “Rigors Initiatives” for the 2012-2013 school year under California’s Common Core Educational Standards.

The first initiative notes that all Colony students will be held accountable for speaking and answering in complete sentences.  The rationale supports the premise that this will help all English language learners to acquire language skills while enhancing all students’ abilities to articulate and express their thoughts with structure, clarity and complexity.

The goal near the end of the calendar year is that students in every classroom will be able to answer at least 30 percent of all questions asked of them by using full sentences.

The second initiative is to hold all students accountable for justifying their answers.  Students must articulate their thought processes while providing evidence and support for their answers.  This initiative is being implemented in January and February 2013.

Carter noted that under the Common Core Educational Standards, it is essential that the students support their opinions and convey their lines of reasoning using evidence and logic.

She said the goal is that by next February the students in every classroom at Colony Oak should be able to articulate their thought processes, while providing evidence and support for their answers at least 10 percent of the time they are being questioned on their work.

Participating in strategic thinking, extended thinking and inquiry-based learning through project-based experience is the body of the third initiative to be implemented between March and May of next year.

The Colony Oak principal pointed out that under the Common Core,  it is essential that her students be able to apply their knowledge to the real world’s unpredictable scenarios that challenge them to think critically and with complexity. 

Carter added that 100 percent of the school’s students are going to be participating in strategic thinking, extended thinking and inquiry-based learning through project-based experiences at least once a trimester at Colony Oak.

Anyone interested in learning more about the African Drum and Dance Assembly Program may find information online at

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