COLUMN: An education celebration

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By Shannon Brock

Friday afternoon I was lucky enough to be invited to a celebration at Emma B. Ward Elementary School.
I received an invitation to the event in the mail at least a week ahead of time (who doesn’t love advance notification?) and looked forward to attending ever since putting the date in the calendar on my smart phone.
Anyone who reads this column with any regularity knows that I have a special place in my heart for children and those who teach them, so it should come at no surprise that I was excited to see the district’s highest performing school celebrate its success.
You see, Friday’s celebration was to let the students in on a not-so-well-kept secret — Ward ranked in the top 12 percent of elementary schools in Kentucky on state tests last year, making quite a jump from the year before.
Following Friday’s assembly, Ward Principal Amanda Ellis said she hadn’t really shared that information with the students yet and wanted to plan a big way to let them know.
I think she succeeded.
With the whole school gathered in the gymnasium, along with Superintendent Sheila Mitchell, Board Chairman Lee Hahn and others who supported the school along the way, Ellis announced the school’s scores by grade level and read off the name of each student who scored proficient or distinguished in at least one area of the test. Needless to say, she had a lot of reading to do.
Midway through the celebration, the fifth-grade teachers were released to the middle school where they planned to share the news with their students from last year.
Following suit, students at Ward were allowed to spend about half an hour with their teachers and classmates from the previous year. This made some of them so happy they were in tears.
Whether or not the students fully understand the magnitude of their achievements, I’ve never seen children get that excited about state testing. Jumping, screaming, clapping, patting themselves on the back — these kids were pumped, and they should be.
Addressing the school, Superintendent Mitchell asked how many students sat a goal for themselves last year. The majority of hands went up. She then asked how many students met that goal. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place, but I didn’t see many hands go down.
So kudos to Ellis and the staff at Ward for teaching children to set goals and rewarding them when their goals are met.
A goal of the top 10 percent is already set for next year, and if Friday is any indication, I think they’ll meet it.
Follow Shannon Brock at Twitter.com/ANewsSBrock.