A sea of blue tee-shirts filled the center section of Cranston East Auditorium on Nov. 14 for the Cranston School Committee meeting by special invitation. The faculty and staff of Woodridge …
A sea of blue tee-shirts filled the center section of Cranston East Auditorium on Nov. 14 for the Cranston School Committee meeting by special invitation. The faculty and staff of Woodridge Elementary gathered to receive the congratulations of the committee for a prestigious recognition: Woodridge is a National Blue Ribbon Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School.
Awarded by the Federal Department of Education, Woodridge is one of only three schools in the state to be recognized this year.
Before ushering the faculty onto the stage for photos, Superintendent for Cranston Public Schools Jeannine Nota-Masse congratulated the assembled educators, saying “I don’t know what the magic is, but I know that it’s working.
Principal Marisa Jackson, who led her staff up to the stairs, said, “This National Blue Ribbon School award is the highest honor, and means so much to our entire team at Woodridge. The work of closing achievement gaps is an everyday charge, and one that has taken a team approach, with consistent monitoring, planning and intentional goal-setting. To receive this award after coming out of the many fluctuations and changes due to COVID is ever more rewarding.”
Gap closing is a special and particularly challenging category among the Blue Ribbon schools. A school is considered exemplary only if the school has made the “greatest advances” in closing student subgroup achievement gaps in English and Mathematics over the past three to five years, measured by state assessments. This means working particularly hard and finding particular success in addressing the needs of students from underserved communities.
“We saw that our school needed more attention placed on math and writing,” Jackson said. “One area we knew we needed to improve on is small group instruction during our math and literacy blocks. Honing our own practices with this strategy has made a significant difference in how we approach each of these subject areas with a personalized approach for our students.”
Jackson attributes the school’s success additionally to the powerful connection of the team at Woodridge.
“There are many components that make a school successful, but it is always our people first,” she said. “The team that I have is unified in the mission and vision that we have for our students and school culture, and it shows in their commitment.”
She continued, “The systems that we have grown here over the last couple of years encompass school improvement teams that are consistently looking at our data, setting goals and objectives based on that data, and relentlessly monitoring the progress through data team meetings, faculty meetings, common planning time -- or an informal check in the hallway. We are always communicating and checking in with one another. We run ideas by one another and we all work together to reach the end goal. We know that students don't always respond to our first idea, so having flexibility and using a collaborative approach has been a key factor.”
Woodridge as well as Rhode Island’s two other new Blue Ribbon Schools, Clayville Elementary School in Scituate, and Park Elementary School in Warwick, were invited to Washington to receive formal recognition from the Department of Education. The team traveled together to join the 310 other public schools and 40 private schools inducted this year into the Blue Ribbon program.
Jackson said of the trip, “The experience of representing Woodridge at our nation's capital was one I will never forget and was beyond special. I had the opportunity to meet other Blue Ribbon recipients from across the country to hear what they are doing on their campuses to reach student goals; it was inspiring and affirming to hear that Woodridge is aligned with so many other great elementary schools across our country. Listening to our U.S. Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, was truly inspiring. I was reminded once again of the honor it is to serve in the capacity as building principal and how much it matters to continue to strive for the best for each of our students every day.”
Now that they’ve returned, it will be back to work for Jackson and her staff at Woodridge. They surely would have kept up the business of helping students to achieve beyond what anyone thought possible with or without recognition, but it’s good to see one’s hard work is appreciated by one’s community, and one’s country.
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