Schools honored for excellence, closing achievement gaps

MILFORD — Schools from all three counties earned honors for their students’ academic achievements during a ceremony Tuesday, including four from the Lake Forest School District, which took home the most honors than any other public school district.

The district’s Lake Forest Central Elementary School was a first-time honoree.

“This is Central’s first time receiving the award,” Superintendent Dr. Brenda G. Wynder said of the newly designated “Recognition School.” “When Mrs. [Michele] Martel became the principal of Central, we discussed some strategies that would enhance what the school was already implementing. We were confident that these strategies would increase student achievement.”

Fifteen schools from throughout Delaware, for their efforts in 2017, were given Recognition School titles by the Delaware Department of Education, two of which were also designated as National Title I Distinguished Schools, according to the department. National Title I Distinguished School awards are presented by the National Association of State Title I Directors.

“I congratulate the students, educators and families whose hard work and support led to these achievements,” Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said. “These school communities have provided educational programs and created school cultures that allow students to thrive. We must learn from what is working well in these buildings and replicate these successes across our state.”

Recognition School awards were created in 2009 by the Delaware General Assembly, according to the Delaware Department of Education, and include an $8,000 monetary award given to each school from the state’s School Improvement funds.

Four Schools of Continued Excellence were honored this year as they were Recognition Schools last year and displayed outstanding performance again. Those schools are not eligible for another financial award until 2018.

“These titles confirm that each of the schools have implemented strategies that provide opportunities for students to achieve and meet the performance goals that have been set,” Dr. Wynder said.

To earn such recognition, schools must exhibit “exceptional performance” in academics and/or demonstrate its ability to close achievement gaps for students in various demographics including minorities, students with disabilities and those from low-income families.

“The Lake Forest School District is so successful because we are constantly discussing best practices for increasing student achievement in our administrator meetings, professional learning communities, grade level/department meetings and observation conferences,” Dr. Wynder explained.

“Goal One of our Strategic Plan is Academic Success for Every Student. Our staff is committed to providing a learning environment that fosters student growth. We are fortunate to have staff that are willing to go above and beyond to help our students achieve. Our curriculum is revisited and revised throughout the year and the curriculum staff provides support to each of the schools.”

She said district staff, as well as its teachers and local community, spends time analyzing academics, attendance and disciplinary data to monitor ongoing needs. Parents also help by supporting curriculum nights, parent conferences and other school and district sponsored functions.

“The Lake Forest School District is proud of our staff, students and parents for working together to achieve these titles,” she said proudly. “We will continue to keep student success a priority. In conclusion, ‘It is great to be a Spartan.’”

Lake Forest Central Elementary School and Lake Forest South Elementary School were honored as Recognition Schools. Lake Forest North Elementary School and Lake Forest East Elementary School were honored as Schools of Continued Excellence.

Mispillion Elementary School also joined the ranks of honorees this year with its first Recognition School title. Opened in 2011, it is Milford School District’s newest school.

Principal Teresa Wallace credits the school’s success to a supportive and understanding staff.

“Mispillion Elementary staff have embraced growth mindset and the compassionate school model to put students first every day. Staff here are willing to try a variety of approaches to learning in order to meet the needs of their students. Sharing those ideas with other staff members and working as a team to get the best results is a common occurrence here at Mispillion,” she said.

Earning the Reimaging Professional Learning Grant through the Delaware Department of Education also aided in the success of the school, she added.

“Mispillion Elementary earned the Reimaging Grant along with our sister elementary schools in Milford. This grant afforded us the opportunity to implement Number Talks in our building and provide our staff with professional training that was reoccurring and differentiated. Number Talks is a teaching strategy that increases number sense and mental math,” she said.

“Mispillion Elementary hopes to continue to meet students where they are and provide them with the resources and support they need to excel.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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