The U.S. Department of Education named Woodlawn School as one of five Blue Ribbon Schools in the state on Thursday.
With that honor, the North Lawrence elementary school, with a little more than 240 students, risks losing the distinction of being one of the Lawrence school district’s top schools that no one knows about.
“We do feel like we are the best kept secret,” Woodlawn Principal Jeanne Fridell said. “Although, now the secret is out of the bag.”
Last year Broken Arrow School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.
The award, which went to 304 private and public schools in the country this year, honors schools that are among the highest performing in the state based on state assessment test scores. It also recognizes schools that have a high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and have improved student performance to high levels on assessment tests.
Along with Woodlawn School, four other schools in the state were recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education:
• Franklin Elementary School, Junction City
• Garden Plain High School, Garden Plain
• Lakeside Intermediate School, Cawker City
• St. George Elementary School, St. George
Woodlawn qualified in both categories.
“All teachers work hard, but Woodlawn has really changed systemically how they approach teaching kids,” Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said. “They’ve used excellent instruction coaches to get better, changed schedules and the way they do business.”
Fridell credits the school’s success to using data from test scores to help drive what is taught in the classroom, teachers and aides collaborating to make sure students understand the material and setting high expectations for the students.
One of the biggest changes the school made was adding half an hour intervention blocks for reading or math. Support staff members help with small-group instruction for students who are at risk and also for those who are performing well.
“We’ve drilled down to look at each student and their individual needs,” Fridell said.
Each year, the students at Woodlawn have watched their state assessment scores creep upwards.
“We feel like all the work we have been through is paying off,” sixth-grader Isabelle Krones said.
Five years ago, 77 percent of third- to sixth-grade students performed at or above the state standard for both reading and math. Today, those numbers have changed to 95.7 percent for reading and 97.4 percent for math.
“More studying for tests,” sixth-grader David Krejci gave as the reason for the improvement. “Last year we studied over spring break in math and reading.”