Beverly-Center Elementary recognized as school of promise

BEVERLY – In addition to receiving an excellent rating on its 2011-12 report card, Beverly-Center Elementary School has been recognized by the state for the success of students across all grades and economic levels.

The Ohio Department of Education named Beverly-Center a School of Promise, based on students’ performance on the Ohio Achievement Tests and meeting Adequate Yearly Progress and Value-Added standards with more than half of those students considered economically disadvantaged. At least 75 percent of all students in grades three through six had to pass the reading and math sections, and at least the same rate in subgroups like economically disadvantaged had to do the same.

“I thought it was fantastic,” fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Elizabeth Curry said of the designation. “I know we have worked really hard the last few years and put a lot of effort into making sure … all of our kids have made growth.”

And teachers were quick to point out the School of Promise title doesn’t only reflect on them.

“We have a wonderful community that stands behind us (and) just a great group of kids,” Curry said.

Beverly-Center is one of 164 schools around the state to receive the designation and the only one in Washington County to make the list.

Nearby, Morgan High School earned the classification for the second year in a row.

“We are honored to receive this award, and we appreciate the hard work of the staff and the students of the high school,” Morgan Local Superintendent Lori Snyder-Lowe said.

Because Morgan is a comprehensive high school with career-technical education on-site along with traditional classes, Snyder-Lowe said the designation demonstrates the “outstanding” and “well-rounded” learning environment the staff provides.

In a news release announcing the designations, Richard Ross, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction, said the School of Promise label recognizes “schools with great results despite facing challenging circumstances.”

“Our Schools of Promise do not let circumstance determine outcomes and do not let obstacles keep them from providing a quality education,” he said. “Our Schools of Promise prove that there’s no reason why Ohio cannot be a national leader in providing a high-quality education in every district for every child.”

To be eligible, at least 40 percent of the school’s population must be considered economically disadvantaged. Beverly-Center’s rate was 62 percent for the 2011-12 school year.

Not only must all 75 percent of all students pass the reading and math achievement tests, at least 65 percent must have done so the previous year. Low-income and racial and ethnic subgroups must have at least a 75 percent showing as well.

The only sub-groups identified at Beverly-Center are white, non-Hispanic and economically disadvantaged.

In addition, the school must meet the Value-Added criteria, which reflects how much growth was demonstrated by students over the course of the year. Beverly-Center’s fifth-graders achieved more than a year’s growth in reading and math, as did the fourth-graders in reading. While less than a year’s growth was recorded in fourth- and sixth-grade math, the overall score showed the school as a whole meeting expected growth.

First-year Beverly-Center Principal Megan Miller noted the Value-Added measure doesn’t allow complacency once students meet standards. Students who excel must show growth just like those who may have fallen behind.

“It’s not just about achieving that minimum line,” Miller said.

That means taking time to tailor instruction to individual students. Toward the end of the day, time is set aside to group fourth- through sixth-graders of like skills on a topic or subject area together. Those struggling are given remediation to help bring them up to speed, while children who may grasp or excel at the topic receive enrichment activities to build on what they know.

Miller said the school plans to expand that approach to all grades next year in partnership with Marietta College classes studying inclusion methods.

Adequate yearly progress, which measures whether students are improving at required rates, is another factor in the School of Promise designation, and if one sub-group doesn’t make it, the entire school or district doesn’t.

Some districts struggle with achieving AYP among students with disabilities. While Beverly-Center doesn’t have the minimum 30 students with disabilities for that area to be measured on the state report card, the district as a whole did meet AYP for that group.

Lenora Lockhart, inclusion teacher, said a few years ago Beverly-Center shifted to an inclusion approach, emphasizing keeping students with individual education plans in class with other students when possible. If a student needs additional assistance, she can take them to a different classroom, but often she’s working alongside their teacher in the main room, helping any student that needs it.

“The whole goal is for a stranger to walk in and not be able to tell the difference between the inclusion teacher and the regular education teacher,” Lockhart said.

Miller said that while test scores reflect students in third- through sixth-grade, it isn’t just those teachers who deserve credit for the school’s performance.

“First they have to come to us with a good foundation,” said third-grade teacher Sue Sampson. “If they didn’t come to us with a good foundation, then we wouldn’t have anything to build upon.”

Teachers communicate with each other, tracking the progress and sharing information about students as they move from one grade to another, Miller said. They also engage students’ families, communicating through newsletters and phone calls.

And community members have noticed the school’s success, with the School of Promise banner hanging over the front entrance right next to the one proclaiming its excellent ranking.

“I think it’s very inspiring that the teachers in the school district stand behind the kids,” said Charlotte Kitts, 66, a lifelong Beverly resident with two grandchildren in the school.