Courtney Elementary is now ranked among the in the top 10 percent of North Carolina schools.
It is one of 13 schools in the northwest region to receive a rating as a Reward School.
“To even qualify for this you cannot be a school that does not have a free and reduced lunch population,” said Courtney Elementary Principal Diana Jones. “There are 1,250 schools that are eligible but to be eligible you have to have 35 percent free and reduced lunch students and we have almost 60 percent.”
Jones said that other qualifications for the award include a classification as a Title I school, proof of adequate yearly progress for several years before and high growth of all students in the school. Jones said that every child, even those who scored in the upper percentiles of their tests had to show significant growth in order to qualify.
“The thing that is probably the most difficult to have done is that there could be no significant academic gaps between the subgroups,” Jones said. “For example, children in the free or reduced lunch program had to do just as well if not better than the children who are not in the program. My white population had to do as well as my Hispanic population. If I had a significant gap in any of those subgroups then we would not have been eligible.”
Jones said that Courtney Elementary has received the school of distinction award for the last four years that Jones has been principal. This is the first time the school has been deemed a Reward School and Jones says she likens it to winning the state championship.
“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve won school of distinction, which is wonderful; but Reward School is top 10 of the state and it’s like winning a state championship, especially since we are the only one in the county,” Jones said.
Jones said that this award is not just her doing. She says that the support and dedication from her teachers made the award a reality.
“I have amazing teachers,” Jones said. “They are always looking for better ways to improve instruction. They are very dedicated to data driven instruction. They know where every child is in their room and how to improve learning for them.”
Jones said that the largest portion of the credit has to be given to the students and their parents.
“Parents had a clear understanding of where their children were and where they needed to go and what the teacher’s role was in helping the child get there and what the parent’s role in helping them get there,” Jones said. “The kids were awesome about it too.”
Jones said that being named a Reward School could possibly open doors for the school when it comes to grants and future training. Jones said that even if the award doesn’t earn the school any grants it will allow for professional development.
“Some of our teachers may get to go present at state conferences and open doors for my professionals to go out and talk to other professionals about what they did to improve learning and show them the cool things that Yadkin County is doing,” Jones said. “It puts us on the map.”
Jones said that it’s unclear if Reward School will be a possibility next year with the changes to the common core essentials. She said that the school earning this award has upped the expectations for future years.
“I think it sets a really high bar that we’re going to have to keep up with,” Jones said. “I think it’s given us some confidence going in to common core. We know we have what it takes; it’s just a matter of digging in and learning the new content and seeing if we can do it again with new content.”
Jones said that she is grateful for the support from the community and the staff at the Yadkin County School’s offices. She said that she’s glad to see that Courtney Elementary can succeed in getting every student to excel despite their economic background.
“We’ve had a lot of help getting here,” Jones said. “We didn’t ride in on a white horse and change things. The county office has been awesome about giving us support and giving us material and backing us when we need it.
“We had quite a bit of hurdle so it was heartwarming to see the less fortunate kids make high growth and pass at the end of the year, it sent chills. It will literally change their lives, it will break the cycle for some of these kids and that’s what it’s all about.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.