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Cottonwood's Prairie Elementary Achieves Blue Ribbon School Award
posted by: Cindy Omlin | October 23, 2014, 09:32 PM   

Marcia Beckman, director of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs at the Idaho State Department of Education noted that Prairie Elementary was the only school nominated for the prestigious award by the state this year. 

Despite a high poverty level of 40-50 percent, the school registered "the highest achievement level average in reading and math as you compare it to all students."  She credited the achievement to "really committed community, dedicated teachers, and effective leadership" -- the "triple combo."

prairie elementary nwpe members sonnen croppedFour NWPE members work at the school.  They include Colleen Sonnen, Andrea Brannan, Sherry Holthaus, and Kim Schumacher.  NWPE congratulated all teachers at the school for their tremendous achievement with delivery of a beautiful bouquet of fall flowers.

Colleen Sonnen bases the school's success on a number of factors.  "
We are a team of professionals at Prairie Elementary.  We work as a group to solve problems and provide solutions for kids. When you enter our campus you see a sign that reads 'Prairie Elementary School, Every Child Learning Every Day.'  We believe that 'Every Child is Worth Whatever it Takes.'"

A number of strategies drive student achievement according to Colleen:

  • We utilize our data to drive our decisions and to provide support in classrooms. 
  • Our routines such as hallway procedures, exiting classrooms, assembly behavior, and going to and from recess, are consistent.  
  • Our staff collaborates to share what educational and behavioral routines and ideas work and what doesn’t.  All staff have a voice and a sense of pride knowing that we are together and value each other.
  • Our teachers teach to their strengths; some like Social Studies, some Math, some Science.  Inside their daily routines, students are also exposed to music, art and physical education. 
  • Each student is assigned an enrichment time during the week to either concentrate on remediation, homework and study skills, or advancement in certain areas.
  • Teachers attend professional development trainings and educational conferences to update their practice and stay current with changes.  Diverse teaching styles reach each student at his or her own learning and comprehension level.
  • Technology is available in all classrooms with one to one devices, and it is used as a tool.  We have teacher experts who support ipads, chromebooks, and a teacher who is our software support technician for our Accelerated Math and Reading programs.   Another staff member organizes our data and still another organizes our testing schedules and routines.  After the data is organized it is shared with all.  
  • Our Response To Intervention (RTI) Group has regularly scheduled morning meetings and shares the data.  Our staff provides interventions for students who show need by providing curriculum and support at the level at which the student is currently functioning.  Students that are above the classroom average and have data that show advancement are offered enrichment and acceleration opportunities such as Khan Academy and Idaho Digital Learning courses.   
  • We share information with our parents regularly through email, articles in our local paper, phone calls, and information sent home with students.  Our doors are always open and we welcome parents into our classrooms.
  • Kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms focus on reading and writing.  The morning routine provides direct instruction that is consistent each and every day with small group, large group, and individual activities.  Paraprofessional support is also provided.

Prairie Elementary enjoys phenomenal parent and community support that helps students achieve.  It's Open House attendance and Parent-Teacher conferences are well attended.  Ninety to one hundred percent of parents attend their child’s fall conferences and students’ overall attendance each year is about 95.8%.

Based on staff longevity at the school, Prairie Elementary is a great place to work and thrive as a professional educator.  The teaching staff at Prairie Elementary has an average of 14.9 years of experience in the district.  Paraprofessionals have 10.3 years experience and the administrator Rene Forsmann has been there 18 years.

Prairie Elementary is special according to Ms. Sonnen.  “The staff truly enjoys each other.  We are more like a family.  We rely on each other through good times and bad. It is truly a gift to be a part of the Prairie Elementary staff and this wonderful community.”

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