For 99 schools across Washington State, it’s an honor five years in the making.
But for one University Place school, the award is especially significant.
The 2011 School of Distinction award winners include 53 elementary schools, 22 middle/junior high schools, 17 high schools and seven alternative schools. And one of those schools is in the .
“I think there is a little bit of ‘wow, this is big’ among the staff,” said Narrows View principal Eric Brubaker. “It’s pretty significant; other schools in the district have won, and I think we know we’re really good at working with all types of students, but to be told so, it confirms what you already believed, but in an external way.
“It is definitely exciting and rewarding for our staff.”
To win the award, student achievement at a school must improve over a five-year period. Additionally, that improvement must be in the highest five percent across the state in comparison to other schools at the same level
Brubaker, who is in his fifth year as principal, said that most meaningful is that the award does not represent just one year of test scores, but half a decade.
“You’re talking five years of reading and math, and that’s what you’re looking for – not a one-year fix, but every year, getting better and better.”
Brubaker said that he has seen significant improvement in math over the last three years because teachers started using data and quarterly assessments to monitor how students are doing.
“We’re breaking down who is understanding it and who’s not, and providing additional support to students who are not getting it,” he said. “I think that is a major piece in making the difference.”
Also having an effect is “having a clear focus in terms of what is given from the board of directors and superintendent,” which helps to align the work the school is doing, Brubaker said.
Additionally, Narrows View has a Student Intervention Team comprised of Brubaker and the school’s psychologist, two counselors and special-education teacher. Homeroom teachers each have the opportunity to meet with the team and discuss two or three students. The team then brainstorms and comes up with an action plan to address the student’s problem, whether academic, social or emotional.
Brubaker also praised his staff’s ability to work with all types of students in their classes and desire to do “whatever it takes to make them successful.”
Brubaker said that his students also benefit from the unique setup of an intermediate school, which serves 709 students in grades five through seven. Kids at Narrows View have music class every day, which is uncommon in an age of budget cuts.
Narrows View also creates unique learning opportunities, such as a rain-garden project for students a few years ago that brought in Master Gardeners to teach classes, or parenting forums on drug and alcohol prevention every March.
“We’re willing to do new things that might help our families and our kids in any way, shape or form,” Brubaker said.
The School of Distinction award is given by The Center for Educational Effectiveness; Association of Educational Service Districts; Association of Washington School Principals; Phi Delta Kappa-Washington Chapter; Washington Association of School Administrators; Washington State ASCD and Washington State School Directors’ Association.
An award ceremony will be held Dec. 7 for the 36 winning schools in the Puget Sound Educational Service District, which serves King and Pierce Counties and Bainbridge Island.