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Top of their class: six Northshore schools earn achievement awards
"We're thrilled because it recognizes the work of our staff... We don't take it for granted," said David Hoffman, principal of Maywood Hills Elementary School in Bothell.
Maywood Hills and five other Northshore School District elementary buildings have earned 2010 Washington Achievement Awards handed out by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the state Board of Education.
A total of 186 elementary schools earned awards across the state. In addition to Maywood, other local winners are East Ridge, Kenmore, Sunrise, Wellington and Woodin schools. Representatives of those buildings will be honored at a spring ceremony in Tacoma.
Principal Jill Crivello of Woodin Elementary in Bothell described the awards as the state's attempt to recognize high-achieving schools, something beyond tracking the standard measure of a school's success, adequate yearly progress (AYP).
"In many ways, recognizing our best schools is one of the most important things we do at the state level," said Jeff Vincent, president of the State Board of Education. "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."
Schools are recognized in seven categories. Maywood Hills won for closing achievement gaps, while Woodin took awards in the achievement-gap category, as well as overall excellence. This is the first year the state offered an award for closing achievement gaps. Hoffman said his school's award looked at three years' worth of data comparing the performance of at-risk students with that of the rest of the student enrollment.
"It's a very complex formula," he added.
Hoffman said his school takes professional development seriously and stresses joint planning between teachers.
"We are constantly assessing student data," he added, "with an eye toward intervention if needed."
Hoffman further talked about having lots of parent volunteers in Maywood classrooms and of working with the University of Washington, Bothell, on a math program.
Crivello said Woodin's overall excellence award was based on at least two years of data. She said the state uses an achievement index that attempts to put various schools on a level playing field. The index takes into account such as issues as the number of students for whom English is a second language, as well as other possible obstacles to learning.
In dealing with her teachers, Crivello said she emphasizes what she referred to as "growing the grade level."
"We've been working really hard on that," she added.
First, teachers study the state performance standards so they know what they should be teaching in each class for each grade. Another step is to assess whether or not students actually are learning what they should be learning. If a student isn't performing well, interventions such as one-on-one teaching are available.
As at Maywood, Crivello also talked about teachers working together, about grade-level teams of teachers.
"We really empower teachers to learn together," she said, noting that seems especially important as Woodin probably has a more diverse student population than most Northshore schools.
Also like Maywood, Woodin is making use of the UW as a resource, though in a different way. Crivello said she and her staff try to follow guidelines set out by the UW Center for Educational Leadership.
According to a UW Web site, those guidelines cover everything from academic standards to the physical environment of schools to setting up "routines and rituals" that promote learning.
Crivello said Woodin has never won any similar awards. She's happy the school is being recognized.
"This is really nice," Crivello said.