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Two Kansas schools recognized as National ESEA Distinguished Schools

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 publicly recognizing qualifying schools for their positive educational advances since 1996. The program highlights the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories:

  • Category 1: Schools exhibiting exceptional student performance and academic growth.
  • Category 2: Schools that have closed the achievement gap between student groups.
  • Category 3: Schools that show excellence in serving special populations of students (e.g., homeless, migrant, English learners, etc.).

NAESPA implemented the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program to highlight selected schools that utilize ESEA federal to improve achievement levels of disadvantaged students. More information about the program is available on the ESEA Network website, www.ESEAnetwork.org.

Schools are named by their state education agency (up to two schools per state) and collectively exhibit the following common characteristics:

  • A poverty rate of at least 35% for the selected year (may use the state’s average poverty rate to qualify a school if below 35%).
  • Demonstrated high academic achievement, which may include high academic growth.
  • Met or exceeded sate-determined accountability criteria.

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 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.

Wheatland Elementary is located in Valley Center. Rachel McClaran is the building principal, and Greg Lehr is 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.

Sixteen additional Kansas schools have been honored since the program’s inception in 1996. They are:

  • Washington Elementary School, Geary County USD 475, 2012.
  • Nelson Elementary School, Haysville USD 261, 2012.
  • Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy Elementary School, Hays USD 489, 2013 and 2018.
  • Curtis Middle School, Wichita USD 259, 2013.
  • Sterling Grade School, Sterling USD 376, 2016.
  • West Elk School, West Elk USD 282, 2016.
  • Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, Easton USD 449, 2017.
  • Roesland Elementary School, Shawnee Mission USD 512, 2018.
  • Ruth Clark Elementary School, Wichita USD 259, 2019.
  • New Stanley Elementary School, Kansas City USD 500, 2019.
  • Chetopa Elementary School, Chetopa-St. Paul USD 505, 2020.
  • Sheridan Elementary School, Geary County USD 475, 2020.
  • Lincoln Memorial Elementary School, Caney Valley USD 436, 2021.
  • Bertram Caruthers Elementary School, Kansas City USD 500, 2021.
  • Westview Elementary School, Olathe USD 233, 2022.
  • Hillsboro Elementary School, Durham-Hillsboro-Lehigh USD 410, 2022.

To access a list of all National ESEA Distinguished Schools and read more about the program, visit https://www.eseanetwork.org/ds/.

Posted: Nov 16, 2023,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush
Tags: ESEA

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