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Collaboration, strong staffing and a commitment to success – at Bethel Manor Elementary School, teachers say those are just three of the elements that helped the school become one of two National Title I Distinguished Schools in the state this year.
“We have amazing teachers and staff who work collaboratively to implement engaging and rigorous instructional strategies that are highly differentiated for our students,” Principal Michael Lombardo said.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, Bethel Manor was selected because of “its success in narrowing achievement gaps in reading and mathematics over two consecutive years, while increasing the achievement of all student subgroups.”
Title I schools receive federal funding to help students at risk of academic failure meet educational benchmarks.
The department’s most recent report card for Bethel Manor shows pass rates on reading and math assessments have increased by 5 percent or more for all student subgroups, which are based on race and gender, from the 2012-2013 academic year to the 2014-2015 academic year.
In 2013, the school was recognized as one of nine “highly distinguished” schools in the state for exceeding all state and federal benchmarks on Standards of Learning tests.
Dana Moore, the school’s fourth grade team leader, said although Bethel Manor is being recognized now for two consecutive years of narrowing achievement gaps, the school has always focused on student achievement.
“We’ve always tried to use the latest and best practices and whatever resources we have to best meet the needs of the students,” Moore said.
But when the York County School Division received more Title I grant money than it had expected for the 2014-2015 academic year, Bethel Manor was able to bolster its efforts by hiring a reading specialist and paraeducators.
Dara Libby, the third grade team leader, said the additional staffing means the individual needs of the students are better met through focused small groups.
“Having those extra people in the building really helps us do that,” Libby said. “It helps the students master a skill based on a strategy that works for them.”
Katie Crockett, the fifth grade team leader, said teacher collaboration on crafting rigorous assessments has also contributed to improved achievement.
“Those common assessments help align different learning styles and enhance active learning,” Crockett said.
Libby said the achievement go beyond the test scores; she sees it in the pride the students have for themselves and their school.
“We’re so honored to have such a prestigious award for our students, teachers and staff as well as parents in the community,” Lombardo said.
Representatives from Bethel Manor will be recognized by National Association of State Title I directors during the association’s annual conference Jan. 28 through 31 in Texas.