Saturday, November 07, 2009

SIX LAUSD SCHOOLS RECEIVE BLUE RIBBON HONORS: Two Valley campuses on U.S. Department of Education's A-list

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

Nov 7, 220 -- WEST HILLS — Two San Fernando Valley campuses were among an elite group Friday to receive a National Blue Ribbon — the country's top honor for schools.

Parents, teachers and students at Hamlin Street Elementary in West Hills and Danube Avenue Elementary in Granada Hills cheered the good news.

"We don't always get a lot of recognition," said Victoria Christie, principal of Hamlin Street.

"This really lets us know that we are doing things right."

Beyond doing things right, to earn the top honor from the U.S. Department of Education a school has to excel on a number of fronts. It has to meet all of the federal government's goals for student proficiency in reading and math, or it has to have a dramatic improvement in test scores. The feat is so difficult that this year only 264 schools in the country - and six in the Los Angeles Unified School District - earned the honor.

"This recognition reflects excellent instruction, a strong focus on academic achievement, a learning environment that meets the needs of all students, and stellar results," said LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

"These jewels of LAUSD outperform schools with similar enrollments throughout California and demonstrate one of our core beliefs: All children can learn and excel."

Across the district, Clifford Street Elementary in Echo Park, Delevan Drive Elementary in Eagle Rock, Solano Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles and 156th Street School in Gardena were also recognized with the designation.

'Hard work can pay off'
All six schools shared above-average test scores, based on the Academic Performance Index - the state's key standardized test benchmark that is graded on a 200 to 1,000 point scale.

Danube Avenue earned an API of 837 last year and Hamlin Street scored 886 — well above the state's goal for all schools of 800 and LAUSD's average score of 694.

Performing dances and songs from Hawaii, Japan and China, and sporting blue "Hamlin Husky" T-shirts and sweaters, students at Hamlin celebrated the big award Friday during a school assembly.

Fifth-grader Connor Ferguson even thanked his teachers for pushing him so hard in the classroom.

"This makes me so proud of my school," Connor said. "It shows that hard work can pay off."

Christie, who arrived at Hamlin five years ago, credited her teachers' use of student data and targeted intervention programs during the school day with boosting her school's scores.

"It helps us figure out exactly what kind of help every child needs," Christie said.

Nurtured by teachers
Danube Avenue Elementary School plans to host an event to commemorate the award next year, when the school gets its Blue Ribbon logo painted in the front entrance of the school, the school's principal, Sharon Geier, said.

She praised her staff for helping her students excel academically.

"It is our goal to ensure that every child achieves his or her full potential," Geier said.

"When any of us — an administrator, a teacher or a member of our support staff — see a test score, we see a child, not a number."

Teachers at Hamlin also stressed they pay attention to students' emotional needs. At Hamlin almost half of all students come from low-income families and a third are learning English as a second language.

"Sometimes we find ourselves playing several roles — teacher, parent, counselor — the bottom line is we will do whatever it takes to get our kids to do their best," said Ricki Averback, a second-grade teacher at Hamlin Street.

Mayby Iraheta, a mother of a fourth- and second-grader at Hamlin and a sixth-grader who graduated from the school last year, said her children also feel nurtured by their teachers — something she thinks ultimately helps her kids do better.

"Our kids excel here because teachers work hard and care," Iraheta said. "This has been happening here for a long time. It is just today that the rest of the world hears about it."

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