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New London school earns Blue Ribbon

Parkview Elementary School closes achievement gaps

By Scott Bellile

Parkview Elementary School has earned the prestigious National Blue Ribbon School award for closing achievement gaps among its student subgroups.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized Parkview and 348 other American schools in the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement on Oct. 1.

The award is a first for New London, according to Superintendent Dennis Krueger.

Parkview Elementary School first-grader Emmerson Sievert reads in class. Students’ strong gains on a state exam led to the school landing a Blue Ribbon.
Photo courtesy of Jody Peterson

“This award exemplifies the quality of programming we have been and continue to pursue,” Krueger said in an email to the Press Star. “I’m proud of our staff, students, and community, and am committed to continue to work toward improvement. This prestigious award is an accolade for the community and School District.”

To earn the award, students improved their performances on the Wisconsin Forward Exam between third grade in 2015-16 and fourth grade in 2016-17, including those classified in the subgroups of economically disadvantaged, special education and English Language Learners.

Of Parkview’s student body:
• 41 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.
• 18 percent receive special education services. Students’ three most common conditions are developmental delays, speech or language impairment and autism.
• 8 percent are English Language Learners.

Parkview had approximately 349 students and 38 full-time employees at the time of application earlier this year. The average student-teacher classroom ratio is 21 students per teacher.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced in January it nominated Parkview for the Blue Ribbon award. School staff submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Education in March.

The DPI recognized Parkview with state awards this year and in 2017 for closing achievement gaps.

Asked what she hopes people realize about Parkview, Principal Jody Peterson said, “That Parkview is a great place to be and that the community has been supportive and we’re able to accomplish things such as this [because] we have a great staff and a great community.”

In its application for the Blue Ribbon award, Parkview credits the Math Expressions curriculum, first implemented in 2009, as the top initiative that helped close achievement gaps.

Math Expressions encourages students to explore, discuss and demonstrate their understanding of key mathematics concepts.

“Prior to the implementation of Math Expressions, the Wisconsin State Assessment showed that [the School District of New London] was below the state average,” teachers stated in Parkview’s award application. “Since the implementation of Math Expressions, SDNL has steadily increased and surpassed the state average.”

The school also credits student achievement gains to the implementation of programs such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Math Morning, Literacy Night and the iReady student monitoring program.

Peterson and Linda Larson, a kindergarten teacher who helped prepare Parkview’s award application, will travel to the District of Columbia for a ceremony Nov. 7-8.

Only two employees can represent Parkview at the national ceremony, so first grade teachers Debra Calabria and Veronica Vakirtzis will not attend despite their work on the application. Regardless, the two said being part of the process was an honor.

Calabria said teachers closed achievement gaps by offering individualized learning opportunities for each student.

Vakirtzis said this achievement was a full school-wide effort and it took many hours of work on teachers’ parts.

Besides Parkview, Wisconsin schools in Stevens Point, Greendale, Eau Claire, Fish Creek, Iron River, De Soto and Kenosha won the Blue Ribbon award this year.

Parkview in New London is actually one of two Parkview Elementary Schools nationwide to win the Blue Ribbon this year. The other Parkview is located in Columbia, Illinois.

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