Washington Honored With Breaking Barriers Award

January 21, 2016 02:10 PM
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School Board President John Laverty, WHS Principal Dr. Ralph Plagman, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, WHS student Shawndell Young; Deputy Supt. Mary Ellen Maske, Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and WHS teacher Kayla Martin.

Washington High School was among four Iowa schools honored by the State Board of Education for efforts to raise achievement among groups of students who traditionally face challenges in the classroom. The “Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award” was created by the State Board of Education and annually recognizes successful efforts to eliminate achievement gaps.

This year’s award-winners were recognized for having the highest proficiency rates statewide in math and reading among a specific subgroup of students, such as students whose first language is not English and students from low-income backgrounds. State assessment results from the last three years were examined to confirm a positive trend for each school. Washington was honored for its work with African American students. A full 74% of the African American students there are proficient in math and reading, compared to a statewide average of 54 percent.

“Washington High School has a long tradition of setting high expectations for all students,” noted Dr. Brad Buck, Superintendent. “I’m proud of the staff and students for earning this award and for the hard work by all that it represents.”

Other honorees are Riverdale Heights Elementary School, Pleasant Valley Community School District; Denison Elementary School, Denison Community School District; and West Union Elementary School, North Fayette Valley Community School District. Interviews with the school principals revealed a common thread between the honored schools: the use of evidence-based practices, a staff-wide commitment, high expectations and substantial teacher collaboration.

Reducing the achievement gap is one of the State Board of Education’s top priorities.

“We commend these schools for their work to demonstrate that students can succeed regardless of their backgrounds,” said State Board of Education President Charlie Edwards. “We have work to do as a state to close achievement gaps and improve for the sake of all students, and Iowa has the right roadmap in place to get us there. It includes a comprehensive teacher leadership system, new standards and aligned assessments, an early literacy initiative, and a coordinated effort to connect students with high-demand, rewarding careers.” 

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