Administrators at Burley-Glenwood and Olalla Elementary schools say there is a simple reason behind their success: complete buy-in.
Both schools made the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s list of Washington Achievement Award recipients. There were 401 schools recognized throughout the state based on an index developed by the state Board of Education.
Olalla principal Charlotte Flynn said selection is based on “three consecutive years of significant growth in core subjects,” which are reading and math. That progress is based on last year’s Measurements of Student Progress exam.
Flynn and Burley-Glenwood principal Darek Grant both said selection was the result of a combined effort of staff, students, parents and volunteers.
“It’s truly a sign that more and more kids are successful,” Grant said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Flynn, who is in her second year at Olalla, shared similar sentiments.
“You have a situation where everyone on board is helping kids do their best,” she said. “We have a philosophy, a vision, a mission here that every child learns — no exceptions.”
Based on being Title I schools, which are classified as those with at least 40 percent of students enrolled in free- and reduced-price lunch programs, Burley-Glenwood and Olalla both are provided with support staff.
Julie Davidson is among four of those teachers at Burley-Glenwood.
“In every grade here, every teacher knows how well each kid is doing on the important standards,” she said. “If a kid is doing well, we do our best to image those kids and move them on a bit. If a student is struggling, we have a plan for them.”
Flynn said the situation is similar within her building.
“What that looks like in the classroom is really knowing where our children are based on assessments we give throughout the school year and then offering assistance for every child in whatever they need,” she said.
Davidson, who has taught in the South Kitsap School District since 1989, said that mentality, along with a shift in educational philosophy, has benefited students when it comes to standardized tests. For example, grade-school students once were placed in “low,” “intermediate” and “high” groups at some schools for math and reading.
“It’s not like in the old days when a student used to be labeled low,” Davidson said. “They would be in the low group forever. It’s not like that anymore. Our interventions are very targeted and they don’t take very long.
“We fix them and send them back.”
Administrators at both schools said education has become more focused. Flynn said Olalla has “a philosophy of bell-to-bell instruction.” Davidson said when Grant was named principal in 2005 at Burley-Glenwood, the school’s morning recess was eliminated. Students now receive 20 minutes after lunch and in the afternoon.
“We changed the master schedule to support good, long periods of time … to meet with all kids for reading and math,” Davidson said. “We had the whole school buy-in — we were ready for change. Every year we’ve been refining what we do.”
Both schools have achieved recent success. This is the second consecutive year Olalla has been recognized as a Washington Achievement Awards recipient. Last year, Flynn said the school celebrated the recognition with an assembly that included junior-high cheerleaders.
“We’ll definitely follow this one up with a big celebration,” she said.
In December, Burley-Glenwood was recognized as a school of distinction by the Center for Educational Effectiveness for a third consecutive year.
Grant, who was honored in November 2013 as the Peninsula Regional Distinguished Principal, and his school also have received several other awards in recent years based on their performance on standardized tests. Burley-Glenwood was recognized as one of only three elementary schools in the state to be acknowledged as a Title I, Part A Distinguished School in 2012.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time learning about the new standards,” Davidson said. “There’s a lot of talk about the Common Core standards — and I don’t think we’re scared of those here. We understand they’re challenging and they’re something for us to shoot for.”