F or the fourth year straight, Glacier Park Elementary has earned the Washington Achievement Award for Overall Excellence, placing it among the top 5 percent of schools in the state.
Second-year principal Chris Thomas credits teachers and support staff at the elementary, which has an enrollment of 843 students.
“We start working on students meeting standards on day one in kindergarten,” Thomas says. “This award should be celebrated by our entire staff — K to five, instructional assistants, front office, our recess supervisors. We all have a hand somehow, someway in the success of our students.”
In the list released yesterday, no other schools in the Tahoma district received Washington Achievement Awards for 2011, but several have done so in recent years. Rock Creek Elementary earned the award in 2009 and Tahoma Middle earned it in 2009 and 2010. Shadow Lake Elementary won a School of Distinction Award, announced last October, for closing the achievement gap in math and reading over five years. Cedar River last year was named the state’s top performing middle school for closing the achievement gap.
To choose the Achievement Award recipients, the Washington State Board of Education looks at two years’ worth of scores on the Measurement of Student Progress tests given to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. The scores in reading, writing, math and science are then broken down by income level. The state school board then looks at the achievement of low-income students, the achievement of non-low-income students, the school’s achievement compared to schools with similar populations, and the school’s improvement over time.
View the complete list of schools, and read more about the award HERE.
“We could not be more proud that we are delivering on our commitment to students to provide quality learning every day in every classroom,” says Nancy Stewart, dean of students, who has worked at Glacier Park since it opened as an elementary in 2000.
Thomas calls the Tahoma district’s overall curriculum “second to none,” and he cites that and parent support as factors in his school’s success.
But he goes back to the staff, which he inherited for the most part when he took the Glacier Park job in 2010. Before that, he worked as an administrator in several Bellevue schools. He says the staff at Glacier Park exhibits a kind of teamwork, commitment and risk-taking that goes beyond what he has seen before.
“There’s a real tenacity with this staff,” Thomas says. “More than any staff that I’ve worked with, they really and authentically use their time and their energy to help every kid, and they won’t stop.”
Thomas cites as an example a recent case in which a fourth-grade teacher wanted to offer a “zero hour” class on problem solving to help improve students’ math skills. The school’s “zero hour” classes are optional before- or after-school courses in subjects such as art, chess and debate.
Thomas and the teacher spent time “combing through all the students and highlighting different levels and figuring out who would benefit most from that zero-hour class. And a lot of thought went into that,” Thomas says. “It’s bringing the data to life.”
A leadership team collaborates exceptionally well, and the staff pushes one another to try new ideas in education, Thomas says.