The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 31, 2013

Three county schools get state kudos

Staff Writer

— Three Ashtabula County schools have been recognized by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for their high-achieving students.

Grand Valley Elementary and High schools and Pymatuning Valley Primary elementary school have been named 2013 Schools of Promise.

The ODE stated, "The Schools of Promise award program recognizes schools attaining solid student achievement in reading and mathematics while serving a significant number of economically disadvantaged students."

The honor is an incentive to close achievement gaps and highlight schools that are 'making substantial progress in ensuring high achievement for all students.'

Schools of Promise must have at least a 75 percent proficiency rate for the Ohio Achievement Assessments and the Ohio Graduation Tests for the 2012-13 school year.

According to the ODE, Schools of Promise "must also have: a 75 percent proficiency rate in two subgroups; an A or B grade for their annual measurable objective for narrowing performance gaps between groups of students on the local school report card; an A, B, or C progress grade on the local school report card; and a graduation rate of A or B. The schools must also serve 40 percent or more economically disadvantaged students."

Grand Valley Elementary and High schools have both been named Schools of Promise for four years. Ellen Winer, principal of the elementary school, said, "One of the things we have focused on in the school is curriculum, and our teachers work collaboratively. Our goal is to meet every child's need.

"I am just so proud of our staff because our staff is fantastic at doing much with little. We don't use text books in reading, or a text in math. Our teachers provide their own materials."

Something both winning elementary schools have in common is assessment. Winer said they have always assessed students, and "we've always tailored instruction to the results of the assessments."

Pymatuning Valley Primary School Principal Billie Fusco said three years ago 'tracking student data and assessing them changed greatly.' In addition to assessments, both elementary schools focus on providing early intervention to students who need help.

PV Primary has been named a School of Promise for three years in a row.

Fusco said, "We are providing intense intervention daily as part of the schedule. Every student can receive math intervention every day, and students who are reading under grade level have intervention time for 30 minutes every day."

Winer said, "That's something we're focusing more on is enrichment in addition to intervention. It's important to provide intervention to the kids who need it, but it's also important to provide enrichment to the kids that don't."

Family involvement is also a common factor between both schools. "We have wonderful kids," Winer said. "Because our families have done so wonderfully with our Walk-a-thon each year, we have been able to purchase Smart Boards for each classroom, and we have just purchased Chrome Books for each third grade student."

Fusco said, "I am a big advocate for student attendance, so I want to make sure they are here and they know they are part of this. It's not just the teachers' achievement. I want them to understand it's their acheivement, too. We have great parental involvement here. Our school is the hub of our community."

"Only 141 schools in all of Ohio got this award out of a possible 2,106," Fusco said. "So that's 6.7 percent of the schools that were eligible. That's how prestigious of an honor this is. My teachers work very hard, just as all teachers do, for the success of the students.