By Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
On Tuesday, September 30, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized Roosevelt Elementary School as one of 337 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2014, based on overall academic excellence as measured by scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. This recognition is awarded to schools demonstrating that all students can achieve at high levels.
The Department will honor 287 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony onNational Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on just under 7,900 of America's schools. Roosevelt Elementary now joins Kennedy Elementary (2011) as the second School District of Janesville School to receive this exemplary recognition.
"These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American education—that all students, no matter their name or zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative, and challenging learning environments," Secretary Duncan said. "National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student."
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content.
The Department invites National Blue Ribbon School nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools. A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the number of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction. The U.S. Secretary of Education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School. Roosevelt was one of eight schools selected by Wisconsin State Superintendent, Tony Evers, to apply for the award.
Of the schools receiving awards across the country, 25 are K-12 schools, 239 are elementary schools, 25 are middle schools, and 48 are high schools. In Wisconsin, “Exemplary High Performing Schools” are those that are in the top 15 percent for performance levels on the state’s reading and mathematics assessments and have disaggregated results for subgroups of students showing similar academic achievement. “Exemplary Gap Closing Schools” have school report card “Closing Gaps” index scores in the top 15 percent of the state. Additionally, disaggregated results for subgroups of students, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, show improvement similar to that of all students. To receive this distinction, Roosevelt’s WKCE scores were in the outstanding range for Reading and Math compared to the annual growth target that the DPI establishes each year. In Reading, Roosevelt scored 9.3% above the state target in the all students category and 7.9% above the target for students who are identified as economically disadvantaged. The scores are more dramatic for math. In the all students cluster, Roosevelt exceeded the target by 18.2% and beat the state target by 19.5% for students who are economically disadvantaged. With the Roosevelt poverty rate at nearly 50%, this result is most impressive!
So how did they do it? What is the recipe for this extraordinary success? The first ingredient is high quality teachers who believe that “all students can learn and achieve.” Dr. Kim Ehrhardt, Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment acknowledges, the strong teacher belief system combined with the “doing whatever it takes” attitude that Roosevelt teachers exhibit are critical elements. Principal, Deanne Edlefsen, goes on to explain that another important factor associated with this accomplishment is the collaboration teachers employ between and among themselves as they look for the best ways to design curriculum and engage their students in learning. She goes on to explain that “Roosevelt teachers are very skilled with differentiating teaching and learning experiences for their students. This means that ‘one size does not fit all’, and Roosevelt teachers are constantly planning and employing the most innovative and creative approaches to keep all students interested in learning.”
Another factor in the Roosevelt success story is their recognition as a PBIS School of Merit in 2012, and a PBIS School of Distinction in 2013. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a national program designed to create consistent expectations for student behavior in the school setting. Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Karen Schulte, points out that “positive student behavior is another important ingredient in the success equation that is evident at Roosevelt.” Dr. Schulte also expresses her appreciation for the active engagement of parents in student learning at Roosevelt, as well as the army of adult volunteers that work daily to provide the necessary individual attention and support students need to excel in their learning.
When you put it all together, the Roosevelt recipe for success could be summarized as follows:
1. The Roosevelt Staff knows exactly what they want their students to know and be able to do. Teaching and learning is not fuzzy but very focused, well organized, and consistently implemented.
2. The staff is constantly checking-for-understanding to make sure that all students are learning and when they are not, they reteach so that all students reach mastery. In addition, Roosevelt continues to have impressive Curriculum-Based Assessment Scores each school year. These district benchmark assessments are important for validating ongoing student learning.
3. The staff employs a professional learning community approach where they constantly collaborate in search of the best curriculum materials and most engaging ways to differentiate instruction. All students are stretched from the least capable to the most able.
4. The school climate at Roosevelt is positive, orderly, and enjoys a great deal of adult support from parents and volunteers who instill the value that a high quality education matters.
When you put this all together, the School District of Janesville is again recognized nationally for having a Blue Ribbon Award winning school. Congratulations Roosevelt students, staff and parents, we are all proud of your achievement and look forward to learning from you as each school in the district continues on its Journey to Excellence!