For the third year in a row, Otis Orchards School in the East Valley School District has been awarded a School of Distinction Award from ESD101. Schools of Distinction are based on improvement on standardized tests over the past five years.
At Otis Orchards, Principal Suzanne Savall said she feels the test scores reflect the work they have been doing with complex trauma, thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It’s a whole system through the lens of complex trauma,” she said. “The key thing is relationships.”
She said complex trauma can take many forms in affecting student learning. It could be the military deployment of a parent, divorce, drugs, alcohol, abuse or the affects of poverty on the student.
Every day, the first 15 minutes of the day are devoted to “Otis Time,” time for the students to connect with teachers. .
Once a month, the staff receives training from Bonnie Wagner, a trauma specialist in the area of health education at Washington State University-Spokane.
“Otis has really become the example school for the work that we are doing,” Wagner said. “When we talk about the work we are doing, we talk about you.”
During a celebratory breakfast on Monday, teachers shared why they thought the school has made such improvements to test scores. Several of them said it was the student-teacher relationship and teachers’ relationships with one another. One said it was because they work with the families. One teacher credited Savall for providing strong leadership.
“We all know modeling is very important,” he said. “When you see a standard put out there, it is easy for an educator to say, ‘I’m going to push my boundaries a little further.’ ”
Tom Gresch, director of human resources, said just getting the School of Distinction award one year was a difficult feat. For a school to raise their test scores three years in a row is amazing.
“Every one of you is doing something toward that,” he said.