Hedges School gets $30,000 state award

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Hedges Elementary School will receive a $30,000 boost this year from the state Office of Public Instruction.

The state has chosen Hedges as one of Montana’s two recipients of the National Title I Distinguished School Award.

“They’re given in two separate categories: One for closing the achievement gap based on test data, and one for high achievement scores over time,” Principal Casey Bertram said.

Each state may choose one winner in each category, he said.

In Montana, Hedges was chosen as this year’s high-achieving school while Radley Elementary School in East Helena was recognized for its work closing the achievement gap.

Hedges was named the award winner in part because of how its students have performed on the state Criterion Referenced Test over the last two or three years.

The test, which is given in March, is used to determine whether Montana schools meet standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

In the last three years, Hedges easily has exceeded the benchmarks set in math and reading.

This year, 92 percent of Hedges’ third-graders achieved proficiency in reading. Fourth- and fifth-graders reached 98 percent and 100 percent proficiency, respectively. The reading target was 83 percent proficiency.

The schools’ math scores also were well above the 68 percent proficiency target. Eighty-six percent of third-graders achieved proficiency, fourth-graders were at 96 percent proficiency and fifth-graders reached 92 percent proficiency.

“I am very excited and proud of the Hedges learning community!” Bertram said in an e-mail to the Inter Lake. “This award is a testament to the expertise, hard work and dedication shown by the entire Hedges staff.

“The mission at Hedges School is ‘Learning For All ... No Excuses, No Limits.’ This staff embraces that mission and consistently goes above and beyond to connect with students and ensure they are successful. The high test scores are a byproduct of that work and validation that we are positively touching student lives.”

Test scores weren’t the only criteria Hedges had to meet to win the award.

The school also had to have a Title I program and a poverty rate of at least 35 percent. Hedges’ poverty rate — determined by the number of students who qualify for the Free or Reduced Price Meals Program — can change monthly, or even weekly, Bertram said.

It usually sits between 40 and 50 percent.

Bertram was quick to say that the award reflects efforts that extend beyond the walls of his school.

“This award is not a Hedges-only accomplishment,” he said. “The other four elementary schools in Kalispell are all experiencing positive yearly gains in student achievement and are all performing at very high levels on the state CRT assessment. I work with a tremendous group of elementary administrators who collaborate, share, mentor and work together on a daily basis.

“I also feel very fortunate to work with a central office staff that is focused on student achievement and works hard to provide the necessary resources and supports.”

Hedges will use part of its award to send a small team to the 2011 National Title I Conference in Tampa Bay, Fla., at the end of January, Bertram said.

The trip is a requirement of the award. The school will also be honored in March at the State Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I Conference in Helena.

The bulk of the award will be used for “innovative programs” at the school, Bertram said. Hedges doesn’t yet have a specific plan for the money, he said, but any purchases “will most likely be instructional technology related.”

Reporter Kristi Albertson may be reached at 758-4438 or at kalbertson@dailyinterlake.com.

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