Washington Elementary School teachers have won one of the state's Challenge Awards, which recognizes student achievement on standardized tests.
The fifth grade class won the award for its math scores when 68 percent of the students scored at the "exemplary" level, which is the highest level. All of the students in the classroom met state standards, which was also unusual, teachers said.
The Challenge Awards are designed to recognize Kansas schools that are making a significant difference in student achievement among disadvantaged student populations.
"It was exciting," fifth-grade teacher Christin Bird said. She said that while students won the award, their kindergarten through fifth grade teachers had built a strong foundation for them.
"We have a fantastic staff here," she said.
Students are also tested in reading and other subjects, and Bird said it is hard to compare subjects.
While math is a worrisome test area, the students pulled through
"In math, there is a lot of territory to cover," Bird stated. "There is a lot of information they need to know."
She teaches all subjects to fifth graders at her school, and they start gearing up for student assessments in January. They take practice tests to get ready.
This year, the Common Core standards are being introduced. Teachers are not sure how that will go with student testing.
"We are waiting to see how to prepare," Bird said.
Bird praised the students who worked hard during the year. Last year's class, she said, took its studies seriously. When they were out of school for snow days, she suggested they go to websites to continue practicing math problems.
Bird was surprised to find the students did just that when they were not in school.
"That class was very good. They trusted what their teachers said. They really wanted to do well."
Certificates of Merit were awarded to the Kansas school districts during a program at Junction City Middle School. The certificates recognize performance on state assessments in reading and mathematics that exceed normal expectations, based on the socio-economic status and sample size of those taking the test.
Data has shown that the greatest achievement gap occurs in schools with a high percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. The schools receiving the Challenge Award have managed to post state assessment scores above what would normally be expected among those serving disadvantaged populations.
"The Challenge Awards recognize schools that provide tangible proof of the long-held contention that all children can learn," said Charles Volland, chairman of the Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force. "These schools are to be commended for overcoming the very real challenges that poverty poses to education."