EL DORADO, Ark. (KTHV) - Hugh Goodwin Elementary in El Dorado is like so many other schools. An aroma of cafeteria food greets you as you enter the doors, signs in bold colors point you in the directions of the counselor's office and there's the pitter-patter of little feet walking down the hall.
The school has 450 students and based on research, should be failing. Several years ago it had all the earmarks of schools that struggle; low test scores, high absenteeism and low income.
This elementary school in the deep South of Arkansas is beating the oods, however. A better word for it might be crushing as Hugh Goodwin's test scores rank amoung the highest in the state.
That hasn't always been the case. In 2005, students tested at 23% proficiency in literacy and 37% in mathematics.
Principal Connie Reed credits the drastic change to teaching the A+ way.
"With the A-plus program, we focus on integrating some type of art into each lesson or whatever skill is being taught," says Reed.
Teachers use arts-integrated instruction and the creative process to capture each student's attention and to support their unique ways of learning.
It's a new level that has parents taking note of changes in their children. Cynthia Meadows' first-grader Caroline is now looking forward to school.
"When you incorporate the arts into it, it creates different intriguing factor and makes them excited about," says Meadows.
Matthew Sheperd can also see his daughter flourishing in her first-grade class.
"Her strengths are more in the arts and being creative, drawing and painting," says Sheperd. "It's been nice that she's been able to incorporate some of the things she really likes and use those things to teach the traditional subjects of math and science."
Sheperd's third-grader, Eli, has even come out of his shell. Eli's teacher, Tobie Sprawls, says lesson planning takes a bit longer, but the numbers prove it's worth it.
Hugh Goodwin implemented the A+ program in 2005 and in 2006 proficiency in literacy more than doubled. Math scores jumped 28%. Those numbers continued to increase over the next four years and now stand at 82% in literacy and 88% in math.
The A+ program is paying off for teachers.
"It brings out that postive feel and just makes people happier to be here, makes it a better work environment," says Sprawls.
And making a big difference for students and parents.
"We are a diamond in the rough," says Meadows. "Hugh Goodwin has given [my daughter] everything that I believe we could have had any anywhere else in the United States."
There are currently twelves schools in the country who have launched the A+ curriculum.