Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Mark in the News
Mark's school, Cherry Creek Elementary was the only Title 1 school in Nebo district that achieved "High Achieving Title 1 School" so this is a very big deal! This is the article from the Daily Herald (unrelated picture from the summer)
Springville's Cherry Creek Elementary earned a $1,500 grant and state recognition as a high-performing school this month, achievements the school's administration credits to proactive teachers that keep a sharp eye for the individuals within their classrooms.
"We create pretty individual programs to try to help those children to be more successful," principal Mark Balzotti said. "It's a school-wide effort, and it takes everybody working hard to identify specific needs."
Cherry Creek is classified as Title I, or a school with a large low-income population, and is thus entitled to extra federal support. The school, now four years old, has been Title I since its creation.
"The United States Congress has long recognized that higher poverty schools face unique challenges in educating students. ... Schools that meet high levels of achievement and close the learning gap despite these challenges are to be commended," the Utah State Office of Education stated in a letter to Cherry Creek.
Cherry Creek has stayed abreast of the science, math and language arts benchmarks set forth by the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind act, which outlines a nation-wide goal to have every child, regardless of sex, race or economic background, performing at or above grade level by 2014.
In order to overcome any socioeconomic hurdles standing in the way of federal standards, Balzotti said the administration encourages teachers to get creative in finding tailor-made solutions for their classrooms.
Third-grade teacher Tiffany Searle, of Payson, secured a $1,500 grant from the 100% For Kids Credit Union Education Foundation to buy document cameras for each of the school's three third-grade classrooms. The $500 apparatus is like a cross between an overhead projector and a video camera. Searle said the device, which also runs through a computer, where it can be manipulated, will help her better display things like hands-on projects.
"If one of my kids does something that I want to show off, I can say, 'Oh, look how this kid is doing this,' " Searle said. "I can put it up there and that will motivate them."
The foundation, which has donated more than $5 million to Utah schools since its 2002 inception, is funded by credit unions, credit union members and other individual donors. 100% For Kids donated computer projectors to Cherry Creek for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in 2008. Searle applied for her grant in June of this year, but didn't get accepted until this month due to a few snags in the application process; her resilience paid off.
"She's a young teacher, she saw a need, but didn't whine about it; she just took it to task," Balzotti said. "It's that kind of people that I have on my staff. They're go-getters, they're not just going to sit around."
It's that kind of initiative, Balzotti said, that has kept Cherry Creek above the federal standards, which not only demand high performance as a school average but high performance within subgroups, such as race and wealth, as well. Failure to meet these standards, which climb each year en route to 2014's 100-percent mark, can result in penalties for the school. Performance is measured each year by the Utah Criterion-Referenced Test.
"If you fail in any of those population groups, you fail as a school," Balzotti said. "It's pretty high stakes. However, hopefully what we're doing is not driven by just a test, but driven by children learning."