Two Kansas schools are being nationally recognized for exceptional student achievement in 2023.
Valley Heights Elementary School, Valley Heights Unified School District 498, and Wheatland Elementary School, Valley Center USD 262, are both National ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Distinguished Schools, formerly known as National Title I Distinguished Schools Program.
The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program, which is a project of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA), has been recognizing qualifying schools for their positive educational advances since 1996. The program showcases the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories:
NAESPA implemented the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program to highlight selected schools that have successfully used their ESEA federal funds to improve education for all students. More information about the program is available on the ESEA Network website, www.ESEAnetwork.org.
Valley Heights Elementary School was recognized in category 1 – exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
The school is located in Blue Rapids. Titus Staples is the building principal, and Sean Spoonts is the superintendent of Valley Heights USD 498.
The school was selected as an ESEA Distinguished School in 2017, too. However, it was recognized in category 2.
Valley Heights Elementary also was recently recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of the U.S. Department of Education’s longest-running recognition programs. The program recognizes outstanding public and nonpublic elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall high academic achievement or success in closing the achievement gap among diverse groups of students.
Wheatland Elementary School was recognized in category 2 – closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years.
Wheatland Elementary is located in Valley Center. Rachel McClaran is the building principal, and Greg Lehr is the superintendent of Valley Center USD 262.
“We are so proud of all the staff and students at Wheatland Elementary School,” Lehr said in a release from the school. “To be recognized and awarded for their hard work in closing the achievement gap between student groups is remarkable. Wheatland is an
example of how our district is reaching our vision of being a premier school district known for excellence in education.”
Principal McClaran added: “I am so proud of the hard work of the Wheatland teachers and staff to help our students grow both academically and socially. It is such a great honor to be recognized for the dedication and drive to make a difference in all our students’ lives and specifically for closing the achievement gap between student groups.”
All national ESEA Distinguished Schools are honored with a commemorative award package, a dedicated section on the ESEA Network website and a special presentation at the National ESEA Conference, which is scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2024, in Portland, Oregon. The two Kansas schools will receive a stipend to attend the National ESEA Conference.
Additional Kansas schools have been honored since the program’s inception in 1996. They are:
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