Bethel Elementary does us all proud

Mar 03, 2013

Congratulations to Bethel Elementary School students, teachers and administrators for all their hard work that led to the school being honored with a rare national award for Title I Distinguished School.

Only 67 of the more than 65,000 public elementary schools across the United States were selected this year for the award, and the process of applying is extensive.

The distinguished award recognizes schools that hold students to high standards and demonstrate exemplary school effectiveness in teaching, use of current research, establishing partnerships with parents, families, and communities, and additional criteria.

Bethel Elementary Principal Jill Barker, said the percentage of students working at grade level is now at 92.8 percent, which is an incredible stand-alone statistic. But even more incredible are the unique challenges Bethel has overcome to meet that high standard. The median household income of Bethel families is $11,000 below the national average and only 7 percent of parents have post high school education. It’s  admirable that Barker and the educators at Bethel accepted that challenge and exceeded expectations instead of using it as an excuse for students to fall behind.

For its achievements, the school received $72,000 to spend to further improve education. With increasing children’s love for reading as one of its main goals, it’s no surprise Barker and teachers will spend money on books and even more training for its staff.

Barker said $15,000 of the award money had already been spent on purchasing 150,000 new nonfiction books to teach students to love reading, and some will be used to provide portable technology devices for all students.

But Bethel is planning to use the lion’s share of the money to send one teacher in each grade level to Columbia University in New York City to attend an intensive, four-day reading and writing program.

“We’re at a really high level of teaching kids to read,” said first-grade teacher Pamela Christy. “But this would take us to the next level to get children more involved in books.”

Barker said the institute would provide life-changing professional development for her teachers and students. Those teachers can then come back and share the new knowledge with all teachers. Without the award money, an opportunity like this wouldn’t be possible because of the expense and local money just isn’t available right now.

Congratulations to Bethel Elementary educators for this achievement and for their continued enthusiasm for sparking children’s interest in reading.

They understand that instilling a passion for reading is essential for a young child’s brain function because it improves their concentration, imagination and makes them better critical thinkers.