'Raising the Curve': 8 stories from a struggling elementary school

Like thousands of other schools, Connecticut school Brookside Elementary was dealing with the pressures of standardized testing, budget cuts, and increased class size when writer Ron Berler decided to spend a year in the school. His book 'Raising the Curve' documents the struggles of the teachers, students, and parents there and their efforts to find solutions. Here are some of his stories.

1. Home efforts

Eight-year-old Ellie Tomplait does her homework at a kitchen table Ann Hermes

Fourth-grader Marbella was moving on to the fifth grade. But academically, the previous year had been a struggle. Both a lack of discipline among the students in her classroom and her own difficulty in focusing seemed to be causing problems. So her parents tried to give her a separate academic space inside the house to help her concentrate. "She glanced at the tiny alcove snuggled between the banister and a window overlooking the street," Berler wrote. "A white work desk and matching chair now occupied the space. The desk set was brand-new. Her mom and dad had placed it in the alcove.... Last year, in fourth grade, she'd done her studying at the kitchen table amid a hubbub of barking dogs, chatty sisters, and Mom preparing dinner."

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