Betz Elementary in the Cheney School District was recently given a Washington State Recognized School award for showing significant growth in reading, math and attendance.
The school was evaluated over three years, ending with the 2017-2018 school year, said Betz Principal Carla Hudson. “It is based on the state tests, the Smarter Balance Assessment,” she said.
Hudson said the award shows the school is on the right track. “We’re very proud of that,” she said. “Some kids made substantial growth but they still might not have met standards. We’re still not where we want to be in terms of scores, but we are making strong growth.”
The Washington State Board of Education named 216 schools as a Recognized School this year, 137 of them elementary schools.
Betz has just over 450 students and about 40% qualify for free or reduced lunch. Carol Lewis, who was Betz’s principal during the first two years of its three-year assessment, said the school’s lowest-scoring students have traditionally been special education students, Latinos and children living in poverty.
The award the school received is partly based on their success at closing the achievement gap between the lowest-scoring students and the highest-scoring students, Lewis said.
“Betz is catching those students up at a much faster rate than other schools,” she said. “As a general trend, all students have achieved at higher levels. It’s kind of a really great victory for Betz.”
It can take years to see benefits from changes in instruction, Hudson said. “The district has put an intentional focus on English language arts,” she said. “Our focus this year was on reading.”
Betz is also working to improve students’ reading comprehension and writing skills. Part of their success is from improving the keyboarding skills of students, who have to type short answers and essays as part of their third-grade assessment tests. Students who don’t know how to use a keyboard often struggle, which can impact their scores, Hudson said. “That can’t be neglected,” she said.
Betz now starts getting students familiar with keyboards in kindergarten and start teaching the correct finger techniques in second grade. “The state test made us start teaching keyboarding earlier,” she said. “I anticipate our scores getting better and better as our kids get more efficient at keyboarding.”
The elementary state assessment tests are given in third, fourth and fifth grades. District Superintendent Rob Roettger came to Betz for the assembly on the last day of school to announce the award and recognize the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. The school received a banner that will hang in the foyer.
Hudson gives a lot of the credit for the changes at Betz to Lewis and said she just kept things going. “She put everything in motion,” she said.
Lewis said she’s pleased to know that what she did at Betz made a difference. “It’s hard to measure,” she said. “Sometimes you wonder if everything you’re doing is what you should be doing.”
She gives credit to Hudson for continuing what she began. “She is doing a good job,” Lewis said. “We’re hoping they continue next year.”
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