From test scores to bullying to attendance, FISH! helps transform at-risk schools

A few years ago, Candace Call became principal at Southmont Elementary in Asheboro, NC. The school had not met its Adequate Yearly Progress goals three years in a row and was on the verge of being taken over by the state.

One of the first things Call did was to take down the dozens of rules plastered all over the school’s walls. Instead she and her staff taught students The FISH! Philosophy, then modeled and reinforced it constantly.

“My wise granny told me, ‘Spend your time doing what you’re supposed to and you won’t do what you’re not supposed to.’ That’s what FISH! does.”

A dramatic turnaround
As the school’s culture shifted, attendance improved and teacher turnover stopped, Call said. Test scores went up. Writing scores rose 31%. In grades 3-5, math scores improved 18-23% and reading scores jumped 9-19%.

The school met all AYP goals and made expected growth as determined by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

The best time of her career
After two wonderful years at Southmont, Call moved to another school nearby, Donna Lee Loflin Elementary, and again introduced The FISH! Philosophy.

After just six weeks of FISH!, dramatic change was evident. “A teacher told the school board it was the best six weeks of her teaching career,” Call said. “She spoke so passionately that she moved our superintendent to tears.”

Boosting attendance, reducing bullying
When Call started at Loflin, she was told nothing could be done about attendance problems. But the school was quickly recognized for having the best attendance in the district for the first month of school.

“It’s about expectations. Reward what you expect and that’s what we do with FISH!. They don’t want to miss a day of school because you never know what you’re going to miss if you miss a day of school at Loflin,” Call said.

FISH! also decreased bullying. “It’s hard to be a bully if you’re focusing on making somebody else’s day. It’s hard to be a bully if you’re spending time being there for each other,” Call said. “Children want attention. In our school, they’re getting attention for these positive behaviors.”

“It’s hard to be a bully if you’re focusing on making somebody else’s day.”

“We’ve gone from a school where ‘We’re just doing the best we can, these kids can’t do any better’ to ‘ We’re going to make miracles happen,’” Call said.

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