School commended for closing achievement gaps
By Scott Bellile
Parkview Elementary School is in the running for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon School Award.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced on Jan. 23 that Parkview is one of eight state finalists. The award recognizes public and private schools nationwide for overall excellence or for closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Parkview closed student achievement gaps over the past five years and scored in the top 15 percent statewide in the closing gaps priority area on the DPI’s 2016-17 Accountability Report Card.
To calculate closure of gaps, the DPI compared how well two groups of Parkview students performed academically to students not part of those groups.
One of the groups was a subgroup of economically disadvantaged students. Parkview’s student population is about 40 percent economically disadvantaged.
The other was classified as a “supergroup,” composed of both English language learners and special education students. The two groups were combined because there were not a minimum of 20 students either to qualify as their own subgroup.
The DPI compared the subgroup’s and supergroup’s performances on the state Forward Exam from third grade in 2015-16 to fourth grade in 2016-17. Every student improved his or her scores on the English language arts and mathematics assessments of the Forward Exam, earning Parkview a perfect 100 percent score on the closing gaps priority area on the report card.
In terms of the overall report card, which also measures three other priority areas, Parkview earned a “Significantly Exceeds Expectations” score of 95.3. Parkview landed the 18th highest report card score in Wisconsin, according to Principal Jody Peterson.
She said Parkview learned in mid-January that the DPI nominated the school for the Blue Ribbon School Award.
“It was pretty exciting,” Peterson said. “We kind of maybe thought it was going to happen, but to actually get the phone call and to be able to share that with the staff and the community, it’s just so well deserved. The staff here has worked so hard and the students have been so dedicated to their learning.”
Various strategies were used to close the achievement gaps at Parkview, Peterson said. They included:
• Helping students hone their skills at Math Mornings, literacy nights and after-school programs
• Practicing a workshop model in English language arts and modeling ELA instruction after the Math Expressions curriculum
• Using the i-Ready blended learning program to monitor student progress and set goals
• Holding intervention and enrichment time
• Working with a data coach
• Among staff, tracking students’ reading levels on a data wall, which is a chart featuring sliding color-coded markers for every child (personal information is kept confidential)
• Building relationships with students by taking on social and emotional learning strategies
“The Blue Ribbon nomination acknowledges and amplifies the quality of our elementary [programming] with a particular emphasis on Parkview Elementary School,” School District of New London Superintendent Dennis Krueger said. “Congratulations to our team of professional educators who continue to improve experiences for each individual.”
Next, Parkview staff will complete a Blue Ribbon School Award application before March 30. Then a national review process will begin. Winners will be announced in September.
The Blue Ribbon School nomination is not Parkview’s only recent success. Last May, the school was honored with a Title I School of Recognition “High-Progress Schools” award. The award celebrates success in educating low-income families. Parkview achieved the “High-Progress Schools” criteria by ranking within the top 10 percent of Wisconsin schools for growth in reading and mathematics and for having low achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Also nominated for the Blue Ribbon School Award were elementary schools in Stevens Point, Greendale, Eau Claire, Gibraltar, Maple, De Soto and Kenosha.
The DPI stated up to eight schools from Wisconsin will be chosen, meaning it is possible national judges could award all the state finalists.
State Superintendent Tony Evers stated in a Jan. 23 news release that the Blue Ribbon Schools nominees “exemplify the work of educators, families, and communities throughout our state to ensure that our students have a safe and supportive learning environment that prepares them for the future.”