<< All News Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - 08:00am Categories:
Story by Deb Seminary, contributing writer

Recently, representatives from Emerado Elementary School and Mt. Pleasant High School in Rolla traveled to New Orleans to be recognized as National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools at the 2022 National ESEA Conference. The four-day event was attended by educators, administrators, and state association members from across the U.S. and addressed a common goal – how to best meet the needs of disadvantaged students.

The National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA)—formerly the National Title I Association—has been selecting examples of superior, federally-funded school programs for national recognition through the National ESEA Distinguished Schools program (recently renamed from its predecessor, the National Title I Distinguished Schools program) since 1996. These schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success, and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community. What makes National ESEA Distinguished Schools’ stories especially powerful are the documented student achievement gains that have resulted from their collaborative and targeted efforts and innovations. 

The schools were selected by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and had to qualify under one of three categories. Category 1 – exceptional Student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years; Category 2 – closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years; or category 3 – excellence in serving special populations of students (e.g. homeless, migrant, English learner, etc.). Emerado Elementary School was recognized under Category 1 and Mt. Pleasant High School was recognized under Category 2.

“There are very specific criteria we looked at,” said Lauri Nord, program administrator with DPI’s Office of Educational Improvement and Support. “We used data such as test scores, graduation rates, student achievement growth, Choice Ready for high schools, and ELA and Math proficiency levels.”

“We look at all schools in North Dakota,” added Stefanie Two Crow, assistant director of DPI’s Office of Educational Improvement and Support. “The selection process focuses on multiple years of accountability data including academic and non-academic measures.”

Both schools have relied on Multi-tier System of Supports to identify learning needs and meet students where they are. They also work hard to build relationships with their students and families.

More specifically, in Emerado, they are in year 3 of a process to dedicate sacred time frames to develop relationships, small-group or individual instruction, and collaboration. They have intentions of enhancing this through an innovation center, team building, and the opportunity to continually evolve with their students. Also, many staff members act in dual roles to carry out the requirements necessary for success. 

The cultural shift Emerado has experienced has been drastic and positive. Teachers have worked hard to build relationships with students and have developed opportunities to create and collaborate. Community involvement has been strengthened through a program that commits to serving the families of the community with household essentials, cleaning supplies, and making food available to all families within the district. Their methods have increased over time and go hand-in-hand with the growth their students have shown. 

At Mt. Pleasant, they look to get all stakeholders on board with what each student needs, including staff, parents, students, and the community. The biggest cultural shift has been for their teachers to take a look at the way they approach teaching and learning on a daily basis. They check for students' progress frequently so they can change their instruction to meet students’ needs.

The Mt. Pleasant High School has a very supportive community that genuinely wants all of their students to be successful. Their leadership team, which includes parent representation, discusses education issues on a monthly basis and makes recommendations to the school board as a whole about curriculum, interventions, or other initiatives they feel would benefit students. They also use parent, student, and community surveys which tell them what they are doing well, and what they can do to be better.

Congratulations to Emerado Elementary School and Mt. Pleasant High School!

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