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Distinguished school

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Clark County school facing more challenges than Wendell Williams Elementary. It's in a high-crime area, more than 90 percent of the students live in poverty, and half the enrolled students leave the school by the end of each year because of transiency and homelessness.

"Kindergarten students are translating for their parents," Principal Brenda McKinney said of what some kids manage.

Yet year after year, the empowerment school keeps improving. In 2004, when Ms. McKinney took charge, 7 percent of students read at grade level and 8 percent were proficient in math. Today, nearly seven times as many students are proficient in reading and math.

This month, Wendell Williams Elementary was recognized as a 2012 National Title I Distinguished School, an honor given to just two Title I schools in each state for demonstrating "significant" student improvement. (Title I schools, which have high rates of poverty, receive dedicated federal funding on top of state subsidies.) Such progress comes only from unwavering faith, dedication, sacrifice and hard work.

It's yet another sign that Clark County schools are making gains, and not just in the suburbs and at magnet schools.

We'd still like to see less federal involvement in our schools, as well as more school choice, especially in urban neighborhoods. But the work of Ms. McKinney and her extraordinary teachers and staff gives Nevada taxpayers reason to believe public schools can get the job of educating our children done, even amid the most difficult of circumstances. Congratulations to everyone at Wendell Williams Elementary.

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