|Local schools earn achievement awards|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
|Monday, 21 March 2011 10:57|
ShareHats off to six Northshore elementary schools for earning Washington Achievement Awards.
Honors for overall excellence went to East Ridge, Kenmore, Sunrise, Wellington and Woodin, and both Woodin and Maywood Hills were recognized for closing the achievement gap.
A total of 186 schools across the state received the awards for 2010. The program, which is sponsored by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education, selects schools based on their statewide assessment data for the three previous years.
Schools are recognized for top performance in seven categories: overall excellence, language areas, math, science, extended graduation rate, improvement and closing the achievement gap.
"In many ways, recognizing our best schools is one of the most important things we do at the state level," said State Board of Education Chair Jeff Vincent. "Spotlighting best practices is not only a celebration of our most successful schools, but also provides an opportunity for all of us to learn what those schools are doing right and how we might incorporate those same successful strategies in other schools across the state."
This is the first year schools are being recognized specifically for improvement and closing the achievement gap.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn praised the addition of the new award categories, emphasizing that improvement and equal opportunity for all students are some of his office’s top priorities. He went on to say, "We’re seeing some very encouraging signs of improvement, especially at the middle school level, where the number of schools rated as ‘good,’ very good’ or ‘exemplary’ has increased by 15 percent from two years ago. We know that this is an extremely challenging task, and we want schools that are heading in the right direction to be rewarded for their hard work."
In response to learning that her school had won an award, Woodin Principal Jill Crivello commented that teaching well is very rewarding, yet also "beyond challenging work." She acknowledges that it’s great to be recognized for both overall excellence and for closing the achievement gap, adding, "We celebrated for about five minutes as we looked at our school data together and then got right back to work!"
Over at Maywood Hills, Principal David Hoffman was thrilled to see the efforts of his staff, students and community recognized. He emphasizes that everyone is working hard to ensure all students’ learning needs are being met.
As to what the school is doing to close the achievement gap, he says, "There is no simple formula to solving a very complex challenge. Accordingly, we are constantly fine-tuning our strategies.
"Through professional development and professional learning communities (groups of educators working together), the Maywood Hills staff continues to hone its skills in addressing the needs of at-risk and diverse learners while at the same time maximizing the learning of all students."
He adds, "We are constantly assessing student learning and reviewing student data with an eye towards effective interventions. We strive to use sound practices that make district curriculum accessible to all, but at the same time differentiate it so that students’ individual instructional needs are met.
"Parents volunteer their time in the school, we have done some work with the University of Washington Bothell in the area of math, and we seek out relationships with agencies and community organizations that will help us meet the social and academic needs of kids.
"Above all, the school staff and community work hard to make our slogan, ‘We All Belong’ also mean we are all capable learners."
This is the first time Maywood Hills has received a Washington Achievement Award and Hoffman says that no one at his school takes this honor for granted and that the staff will continue to "stay curious and committed to powerful instruction."
Kenmore Elementary Principal Steve Hopkins also views the award as signifying the hard work of students, staff, parents and community partners at his school.
He emphasizes that the professional practice for educators is always a work in progress and that on-going research constantly reveals new findings to help guide these practices.
In his opinion, quality instruction is the key to closing the achievement gap and ensuring that all kids have equal access to learning opportunities.
He says, "To make instructional improvement and fully understand what the experts say, teachers need to study together, talk together, and compare lesson plans and student work. Teachers often comment on how helpful it is to have the time with their colleagues to really discuss what we are asking students to do. These conversations help us increase the rigor, efficiency and effectiveness of the lessons we teach. Research certainly validates the importance of developing professional learning communities in relation to improved student learning."
In addition to teachers meeting together, Kenmore’s building instructional coaches meet weekly with different grade levels for professional dialogue and to share ideas and expertise.
Hopkins also meets with the coaches on a weekly basis to determine how best to support the teachers in their instructional duties.
He adds, "A very important part of our jobs is to determine what professional development is needed to move a teacher’s practice to the next level. Sometimes we find school-wide needs; other times we find needs specific to just one teacher or one grade level."
Hopkins asserts that teaching is more than just planning activities for children to do. Nor is it about giving kids a slew of facts to learn.
He believes teaching is about helping children become critical thinkers and preparing them to live in an ever-changing world.
As the superintendent of Northshore School District, Larry Francois is pleased that six area schools earned awards.
He responds, "It is so gratifying to see the hard work of teachers, principals and support staff acknowledged through this award. It is particularly gratifying that two of our more diverse schools are being recognized for narrowing the achievement gap. These awards demonstrate that we can make improvements when a school community unites around a vision of excellence for all students."