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Burlington Elementary gets noticed for academic achievement

Out of thousands of schools in the country, Burlington Elementary School has received one of the most prestigious awards given by the government.

This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spelling announced the 2007 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools and Burlington was the only school in Lawrence County named.

It is also one of only 14 schools in the state of Ohio named as a Blue Ribbon School. The school has about 265 students from kindergarten through fifth grades.

For the past four years, Burlington has been a “School of Promise” in the state.

To qualify for the Blue Ribbon award, schools had two criteria: Schools with at least a 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance to high levels on state tests; and schools whose students, regardless of background, achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on state tests or in the case of private schools in the top 10 percent of the nation on nationally-normed tests.

“We had to meet AYP, based on our improved scores throughout several years showing that disadvantaged kids were meeting annual yearly progress,” Principal Harriett Kitchen said.

The chief state school offices nominated the school based on their previous scores and qualifications, and the principal had to fill out a lengthy application to apply for the award.

Although a total of 413 schools nationwide can be nominated, only 287 schools in the country were awarded the honor.

“I attribute it to a caring teaching staff,” Kitchen said. “They are excellent. They believe in going all out and they will do whatever it takes to make sure the kids are successful.”

The school does a lot of intervention and teachers give assessments and analyze test scores to find the students’ weaknesses, she said.

They use a Web-based program “Study Island” where students can take tests that print out reports for the teacher to analyze.

“Then the teacher can adjust their teaching strategies,” Kitchen said. “But, it’s not just the school, it’s everybody working together — the staff, the students and the parents. We have a really good parent coordinator, Kim Hurst. The school can’t do it alone.”

She also attributes Assistant Superintendent Mark Christian, who was the former principal of the school for eight years, as having a big influence in the school.

The school has several incentives they give to the students when they reach a certain amount of accelerated reading points.

“First, they get a pin, then a shirt and at the end of the year, if they have reached a certain amount of AR points, we take them out to a restaurant to eat,” she said. “We have a really good PTO and they do fundraisers and they give us the money to do these incentives.”

On Nov. 12-13, school representatives are invited to be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Kitchen announced the award on Thursday morning at the school.

“I could hear a cheer all through the school,” she said.