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Principal Shaves Head To Reward Students’ Test Score Gains

— Success sounds a lot like an electric hair clipper at Baker Elementary School in San Diego's Mountain View neighborhood.

Aired 10/26/12 on KPBS News.

A San Diego principal gives up his hair to repay students for test score gains.

Principal Armando Farias has his head shaved at Baker Elementary, Oct. 26, 2012. Farias promised students if they raised the school's academic performance score, he would shave his head or dye his har. The students chose head shaving.
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Above: Principal Armando Farias has his head shaved at Baker Elementary, Oct. 26, 2012. Farias promised students if they raised the school's academic performance score, he would shave his head or dye his har. The students chose head shaving.

Last year, Principal Armando Farias promised students if they raised the school’s academic performance score from 743 to the state’s benchmark for excellence – 800 – his hair would be theirs. They could vote to have him shave his head or dye his hair.

When scores were released earlier this month, the school had blown past that goal, scoring 820. The students chose head shaving and got their wish Friday morning.

Ten-year-old Fernando Perez needed just one word to sum up how he felt about seeing Farias give up his hair: "Awesome!"

How the school made the leap is clear to Perez.

“Our teachers teached us. And they’re really good teachers,” he said.

Farias has a more complex explanation. All of Baker’s students are from low-income households and more than three quarters are learning English as a second language. But Farias said teachers worked to give students lessons targeted to their individual needs.

“It’s a lot of data analysis, it’s a lot of teacher evaluations. It’s a lot of teacher collaboration," he said. "It’s a lot of me, going into classrooms, making sure that I’m supporting my teachers and teachers are supporting teachers.”

On tests that schools' academic ratings are based on, nearly half of Baker’s students met or exceeded reading targets, up from about 40 percent the year before. Three quarters reached math targets, up from half the previous year.

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