DENHAM SPRINGS -- Eastside Elementary Principal Kelly LaBauve refused to take credit.

Instead, she passed it to the ones responsible for yet another award bestowed on the school in the last year — the students.

“I’m just proud of the students,” she said. “All of them. That’s really it. They’re the ones who did this.”

They sure did.

Because of the students’ recent academic progress, Eastside Elementary School in Denham Springs was named a National ESEA Distinguished School, one of nearly 100 schools nationwide to receive the honor.

The Louisiana Department of Education submitted Eastside Elementary as its lone statewide elementary selection “in recognition of the success of its education programs and academic progress of its students over the past year,” according to a press release. 

L.W. Ruppell Academy for Advanced Studies in Gretna, which serves students in grades 6-8, was the state’s other winner.

“We are excited that our efforts and the tremendous progress of our students have gained the attention of state education leaders and now, the national administrators who oversee many of the federally funded programs in our schools,” LaBauve said.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides additional resources for at-risk students and federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of public elementary and secondary education.

The National ESEA Distinguished School award was given to less than 100 schools through the country that have gained recognition for exceptional student achievement in 2018.

The honored schools “demonstrated 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,” according to the press release. 

“I was very flabbergasted,” LaBauve said of hearing the news. “It wasn’t shocking because the people here work so hard, but it was humbling. For others to see their hard work and recognize it is inspiring.”

LaBauve said Eastside Elementary was chosen for “closing the achievement gap between student groups.” From 2017 to 2018, ESE had the following gains in subgroup performance:

  • Economically Disadvantaged scores went up 1.9 points and scored in the 90th percentile statewide.
  • English Language Learners scores went up 3.5 points and scored in the 96th percentile statewide.
  • Students with Disabilities scores went up 16.4 points — from 61.0 to 77.4 — and scored in the 98th percentile rank statewide.

For the huge jump in Students with Disabilities performance, LaBauve singled out special education teacher Jennifer Bowman for the “high expectations” she has for her students. 

“[Bowman] really pushes her students and has high expectations for them,” LaBauve said. “She grades them the exact same way regular education students are graded, she teaches them the exact same standards, and her scores were amazing last year.”

Another reason behind the overall gains of Eastside Elementary, LaBauve said, is the school's Title 1 Lab, a computer lab that stays crowded with students throughout the school day. 

“We always have at least 3-4 groups going in at a time,” she said. “We have tutors that pull kids and work with them on whatever their deficiencies are. It's all about targeting what [the students] need.” 

In a press release, Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Rick Wentzel congratulated the school’s teachers, staff, administrators and parents “who have committed themselves to helping their students achieve academic excellence.”

“We are very proud that one of our programs is being showcased at the national level,” Wentzel said.

The National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators implemented the National ESEA Distinguished School Program in 1996 to selected schools that have successfully used their ESEA federal funds to improve the education of all students. The organization was formerly known as the National Title I Association.

Since 1996, the program has showcased the success of hundreds of schools in one of three categories: exceptional student performance for two consecutive years; closing the achievement gap between student groups; and excellence in serving special populations of students.

Recently, Eastside Elementary was also named to the state’s “honor roll” for its high performance during the 2017-2018 school year in its early childhood programs. The school was recognized in the “Excellence” category, which is the state’s highest possible rating on the school’s annual performance evaluation. Only 90 schools statewide earned the top rating, according to the state report.

Livingston Parish’s Northside Elementary was also on that list, among the 90 statewide recipients.

In addition, Eastside Elementary is a Top Gains School and Equity Honoree, two designations awarded by the state department of education.

Top Gains Schools must demonstrate exceptional student progress by earning an “A” for student progress and ensuring that students meet or exceed their learning goals each year. Top Gains schools must also do well in their student subgroups and in student behavior.

Equity Honorees demonstrate exceptional performance in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups, including students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and second language learning students.

Eastside Elementary and the other National ESEA Distinguished Schools will be recognized during the National ESEA Conference Jan 29. - Feb. 2.

For more information about the National ESEA Distinguished Schools, visit www.ESEAnetwork.org.

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