Wahitis Elementary Threepeats as School of Distinction

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OTHELLO — For the third year in a row, Wahitis Elementary School has been named a “School of Distinction” by the Bellevue-based Center for Educational Excellence.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Othello School District Superintendent Chris Hurst. “The teachers have done a good job with intervention, supporting students with math and reading comprehension.”

The center recognizes schools that have managed to sustain improvement in math and English language comprehension for five years. While Wahitis is still ranked at 37.2 in relation to other schools across the state (just above the bottom third of state elementary schools), it has sustained a significant increase from a ranking of 8.1 — the bottom 10 percent of schools in the state — in 2013.

Hurst attributed the school’s continued improvement to a deliberate and intentional focus on teaching and curriculum and a constant review of data to make sure that what teachers are doing in classrooms is actually working.

“We’re focused on math concepts and reading comprehension, and we have all principals and teachers looking at the data, establish grade level goals, and then reflect on their teaching,” Hurst said.

Hurst also said administrators at Wahitis also “do a good job” of getting out of their offices and into the classroom, providing feedback to teachers and helping keep them accountable to their goals.

“We are constantly looking at data,” Hurst added. “It’s very intentional.”

With an enrollment of 532 students, Wahitis Elementary has a much higher level of students from poor families than the state average, and slightly more than half of all Wahitis students are listed as “English learners,” according to data from the Center for Educational Excellence.

In the last two years, Wahitis has celebrated the School of Distinction awards with an evening assembly including students, teachers and parents. However, this year, he said the district is planning a daytime celebration.

And he’s also upbeat that Wahitis’ success will continue.

“I look forward to the fourth and fifth awards,” he said. “This is about leadership and teachers.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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