Despite the 102-year-old building they attend classes in, the students at Jenkins Middle School continuously show top improvement in test scores and have the awards to prove it year after year.
As a 2012 School of Distinction, JMS is one of a few schools in the state to receive the coveted award for improvement in reading and math for three consecutive years. The award is presented to the top 5 percent of schools for improvement over a three-year period and 97 elementary, middle and high schools received the honor in 2012. There were 24 middle schools and junior high schools in the top 5 percent for the state.
JMS staff members, and Chewelah Superintendent Rick Linehan, were presented the award from the Spokane Educational Service District (ESD101) on Tuesday, Jan. 8 on behalf of The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE), the Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD). The Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Phi Delta Kappa-Washington Chapter (PDK-WA), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State ASCD and Washington State School Director’s Association (WSSDA).
Seven schools in the region were recognized by ESD101, three middle schools and four high schools. And, even for those it is rare to receive the award for three consecutive years, three of the seven schools were able to meet that expectation for the region. There are over 50 districts in ESD101.
Immediately following the presentation at ESD101, Linehan organized a second banner presentation at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center so that JMS Principal Jon Symonds could be a part of the distinguished honor. Symonds is currently recovering from a Christmas Day snowmobiling accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He has been the principal at JMS since they were first recognized as a School of Distinction in 2010.
“It buoyed his spirits, our spirits,” Linehan said as it was something positive that happened so soon after the accident. It was also the first time since the accident that many saw him and it was good for him and staff and the kids to see him on TV since KHQ covered the story, Linehan said.
As principal, Symonds is integral to a successful school and getting this award, Linehan said.
“The leader of a building is very underrated in how well the building functions,” he said. “He tries to get to kids around the building all the time, teachers see him there all the time, he leads testing, and processes data to be best used for informing instruction as well.”
Linehan said the biggest change the school district has implemented in the last three years is the addition of PLC (personal learning community) time for teachers to have one hour to work together every Monday morning to help develop the best ways to improve learning overall.
Gess Principal Jerry Pugh consistently sees rising scores in 3-5 grade as well and said that has helped JMS become a School of Distinction.
Linehan said students cannot just learn to take tests and meet expectations in middle school, it starts from kindergarten learning teacher expectations and test taking and that can be attributed to Gess Elementary efforts as much as JMS efforts.
As his school is honored for progress, Symonds continues to progress in his physical therapy treatment. He is expected home on Feb. 26 although Linehan said there is still months of work ahead for him before he can return to his position.
His family set up a page on the www.caringbridge.org website for periodic updates of his progress. On Jan. 27, Symonds wrote an entry and was able to sit for 20 minutes, which he said is “a big accomplishment.”
“You see, sitting is now like sitting on one of those big exercise balls in a lake,” he wrote.
Jenkins High School Counselor Pat Gaffney is currently acting as principal at JMS while Symonds is away.
The Center for Educational Effectiveness, a services, consulting, and research organization dedicated to the mission of partnering with K-12 schools to improve student learning, started the School of Distinction award in 2007 as way to recognize top improving schools. Middle schools are judged in 6-8 grade MSP (Measures of Student Progress) standardized exams. To qualify, schools must have data for at least two of those grades to be considered for the award.
According to the CEE website, “The awards are not designed as a replacement for state and federal accountability measures of school performance, but rather as a supplemental measure to recognize and celebrate school staff, students, and leadership who improve performance for all students over a sustained period of time.”
“These schools are from all regions of the state, all sizes of towns, and with 2 percent to 95 percent poverty and enrollment of English Language Learners as high as 49 percent, these schools demonstrate that significant improvement is occurring all across our diverse public schools.”
For more information, go to www.effectiveness.org.
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff