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Vashon High School recognized as one of the top schools in the state

By NATALIE MARTIN

Vashon Island High School recently received a Washington Achievement Award (WAA) and was recognized as one of the top 5 percent of schools in the state for 2013.

The high school was one of about 400 elementary, middle and high schools to receive the WAA, an award based on state test scores. The award is given by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the State Board of Education.

All schools that earned awards were recognized for high performance in one or more of six categories. Vashon Island High School was awarded for Overall Excellence, an award reserved for the top 5 percent of schools in the state that have overall high test scores as well as a narrow gap between the scores of low-income students and non-low-income students. VHS was also recognized for High Progress, meaning low-income students’ test scores showed improvement over a three-year period. Students considered low-income are those enrolled in the state’s free and reduced lunch program.

While 26 high schools in the state received the Overall Excellence award, just six high schools received both the Overall Excellence and High Progress distinctions, something VHS Principal Danny Rock called an important combination. Other distinction categories include Reading Growth, Math Growth, Extended Graduation Rate and English Language Acquisition.

“I think it’s really important that we not only are demonstrating academic excellence for our students, but that we’re also serving students who normally don’t do as well,” he said.

VHS has also won awards previously. In 2008, it was one of two schools in the state to receive both a national No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon award and a School of Distinction Learning Improvement award, another statewide award given by OSPI. When State Superintendent Randy Dorn came on in 2008, however, OSPI and the State Board of Education created the Washington Achievement Index and the Washington Achievement Award, a rating system that gives more weight to the performance of low-income students. This is the first WAA the Vashon Island School District has received.

The award comes at a time when the Vashon Schools Foundation is kicking off its annual campaign, this year emphasizing the need to bridge the school district’s budget gap, adopt new textbooks and  support programs that haven’t been adequately funded in recent years. Those programs include several for students who struggle and non-traditional learners.

Rock, who replaced Susan Hanson as the high school principal this school year, said that while the recent award reflects that the high school is doing well, there are still students there who struggle. He noted that not all students who score high on state assessments also do well in the classroom.

“There are lots of different ways students struggle,” he said.

Rock said he believes the high school could do more with its alternative programs and services for students who struggle, something that can be hard at a small district with limited funding.

“We work hard to support students here, but I think there’s some growth we could achieve around coordinating those services and targeting students, identifying those students sooner,” Rock said.

School district officials will accept the award at a ceremony tomorrow in Lacey.

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