GRAETTINGER - A Palo Alto County school is one of five schools from across the state to be honored by the State Board of Education last week for making significant progress in closing gaps in student achievement. Officials of the Iowa Department of Education announced late last week that the Graettinger-Terril Community School district was one of five winners of the 2012 Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award. The awards were presented during the annual Iowa Association of School Boards Convention in the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines last Thursday, during the Iowa School Board Convention.
Each year, the award recognizes successful efforts to eliminate achievement gaps with approaches such as evidence-based instructional practices, high expectations and collaboration among teachers. Schools are selected for this award after the State Board of Education examines school testing data to find the highest proficiency rates in reading and math in various sub groups. Once the highest scoring schools are identified, staff members are interviewed to check on the practices and their implementation. Among sub groups examined for increased proficiency are English Language Learners, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Graettinger-Terril High School was awarded the honors based on its work with students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
"The results Graettinger-Terril High School achieved are truly impressive," noted James Flansburg, Interagency Liaison of the Iowa Department of Education.
"When Mr. Flansburg called with the good news, I couldn't help but feel thrilled for our staff and students, it means tha tall the extra efforts are paying off," noted G-T Principal Teresa Alesch. "We are most proud of our student assistance program, Though the name has changed with time, the goal remains the same to provide students with the one-on-one time they need to improve skills and meet benchmarks o a daily basis."
Along with Graettinger-Terril, the other four schools meeting the award criteria are the Bloomer Elementary School of the Council Bluffs Community School District, for its work with English Language Learners; the Madison Elementary School of the Davenport Community School District for its work with African American students; the Willowbrook Elementary School in the Southeast Polk Community School District for work with students on an Individualized Education Program, or IEP and the Madison Elementary School of the Muscatine Community School District for efforts with Latino students.
Math and reading data were examined to determine the highest proficiency rates among the subgroups. Subsequent interviews with principals revealed commonalities between the winning schools, such as the use of evidence-based practices, a staff-wide commitment, high expectations and substantial collaboration among teachers.
Reducing the achievement gap is one of the State Board of Education's top priorities.
"This award is a direct result of the dedication of the entire staff at Graettinger-Terril to expect great things from every student in our buildings," noted G-T School Board President Kyle Norris.
"We have excellent teaching staff throughout our elementary, middle and high schools and I believe together they have provided a solid foundation to help not some, but all of our students make gains," noted Alesch. "Our students deserve a big round of applause. This is something to be proud of!"
"These schools are helping a diverse group of students succeed in school," said Rosie Hussey, president of the State Board of Education. "Their efforts will continue to benefit not only their own students, but also their communities and the state for several years to come."