Bremerton's Crownhill wins state improvement award

First-grade teacher Matt Taran at Crownhill Elementary School helps Michael Chichester set up his iPod while Marcelo Aguilera and Saidee Dervaes use the iPods to record themselves reading June 10.  - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
First-grade teacher Matt Taran at Crownhill Elementary School helps Michael Chichester set up his iPod while Marcelo Aguilera and Saidee Dervaes use the iPods to record themselves reading June 10.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Aidan Clark, a first-grader at Crownhill Elementary School, knows how to navigate an iPod touch flawlessly. But, he isn’t using it to listen to music.

“We can record our reading and we can listen to our reading,” Aidan said. “It’s fun.”

Last Friday, Aidan’s class used the iPods to record themselves reading and to listen to their recordings afterward to help with word pronunciation. However, integrating technology into lessons is not the only thing that has helped earn the school a state Title I, Part A improvement award, but an all-encompassing feeling of community. The school received the award earlier this month for reaching state testing requirements for the past three years in math and reading.

Brenda Bergstrom-Caldwell, whose son is in the second grade at the school, said she is “definitely satisfied” with her child’s education and gives credit to the teachers who work together as a group. Also, she noted, the teachers communicate well and often with parents.

“I think there’s a huge difference in the atmosphere at Crownhill,” Bergstrom-Caldwell said.

Title I schools are those that receive federal money because their students are low-achieving in the subjects of math and reading. About 1,000 schools in the state are Title I-funded and a majority of these have a high population of students from low-income families, said Gayle Pauley, director of Title I and Learning Assistance Program with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“It kind of goes hand in hand lots of time,” Pauley said of students from lower income families producing lower scores in those subjects.

Crownhill has an enrollment of 411 students and 60 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch said, Jill Carlson, principal of the elementary school. Despite those differences, Carlson said students are treated the same, regardless of how well they score or how wealthy their parents are.

“Our mantra is Crownhill kids are all of our kids,” said Carlson, adding that special attention isn’t given to students who excel in testing.

But those who need extra help have the resources available to them.

The school has both before- and after-school tutoring programs. The morning tutoring sessions are available in math for third- to fifth-graders four days a week. Every Thursday after school, students are able to be paired with a volunteer from Bremerton United Methodist Church to receive one hour of tutoring in any subject that is giving them trouble. The church is located down the street from the school and volunteers have been trained by school staff on how to work with the students, Carlson said. Every Wednesday, there is also help available for kindergarten through second-graders with one-on-one assistance.

Even though Ben Batie hasn’t been a long-time parent at Crownhill — his twin daughters are in kindergarten — he has noticed the level of teacher involvement, calling it beyond the minimum, as well as noticing the effort being made to communicate with parents. He said teachers send notes home with his daughters detailing areas that can be worked on at home.

“The teachers really get involved. And, they are strict on attendance,” he said.

Carlson said student attendance is at 95 to 98 percent on a daily basis.

The improvement award is not Crownhill’s first one from the state. For the 2008-2009 school year, the school received the state Academic Achievement award for math and reading and for the 2009-2010 school year, received the Title I National Distinguished School Award, Pauley said. The distinguished school award was received for showing growth in a three-year period.

However, Crownhill is not the only school in the district to receive the state improvement award. Kitsap Lake Elementary School received the state Title I improvement award for the second year in a row.

Kitsap Lake Principal Patty Grenquist credits the single-mindedness of the staff, believing all students are deserving of extra attention.

“It’s intentional, it’s every day,” Grenquist said.

Kitsap Lake has 410 students enrolled, with 56 percent on free or reduced lunch, Grequist said. Programs including an after-school science club and before-school math and reading assistance have “extended” the school days for students who want to participate in other activities and for those in need of extra help.

This year, 56 schools in the state received the improvement award and each will receive $5,515. Crownhill plans to put the money toward professional development for teachers and for the early morning tutoring program.

Although Crownhill and Kitsap Lake continue to excel, another school in the district is preparing for restructuring because of poor state test scores.

Because Mountain View Middle School did not meet state testing requirements for seven consecutive years, the district must create a restructuring plan that will be implemented in September. The plan must be submitted to the state by July 1.

Along with a son at Crownhill, Bergstrom-Caldwell also has a daughter in seventh grade at Mountain View. She thinks it is difficult to compare the two schools.

“It’s like apples and oranges,” Bergstrom-Caldwell said. “In elementary school, it’s a smaller group of kids. In middle school, that’s a huge group of kids and I don’t think it’s as easy to have the one-on-ones.”

Lester “Flip” Herndon, district superintendent, said the district is on track to submit Mountain View’s restructuring plan by July 1. It will likely include a new schedule of having eight classes that are 45-minute periods with two periods paired back to back to provide for 90 minutes of instruction, Herndon said.

“If you look at almost any district, you will see a drop from elementary to secondary,” Herndon said regarding the discrepancy between testing results at Crownhill and Mountain View.

Although there is no specific data that reflects this trend of middle school students’ test scores dropping, Nathan Olson, spokesman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, did not disagree.

“I have heard that often times that does happen, scores do drop in middle school,” Olson said.

Even though test scores at Mountain View are not up to par, Bergstrom-Caldwell said that there are positive contributions at the school, including community members coming to speak to eighth graders about career choices.

“There’s a lot of good things going on,” she said.

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