Best in Class: Community School fêtes Blue Ribbon status

Best in Class: Community School fêtes Blue Ribbon status

Fifth-grader Maeve Casey, of Cumberland, reads for an assignment Monday at Community Elementary School. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

CUMBERLAND – Community School last week became the first public school in Cumberland’s history to win a National Blue Ribbon Schools designation, setting off celebrations at the elementary school on Arnold Mills Road.

The U.S. Department of Education announced three Rhode Island schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2017, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps.

The schools receiving the honor were Community School of Cumberland, Classical High School of Providence, and Fishing Cove Elementary School in North Kingstown.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards, or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. Classical High School and Community Elementary School were designated as Exemplary High Performing Schools, and Fishing Cove was designated as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School, according to a news release.

Shannon Bessette, a math interventionist at Community School who played a key role in filing the application for the designation, said the school is “very excited” about the designation, especially because it’s so rare. Community School is a high-performing school that’s doing things differently, she said, and it’s gratifying to see that work recognized and be the only elementary school in the state with that designation this year.

“We’re pretty proud of that,” she said.

The idea of personalized learning, where each student’s learning is approached in a different way, is not a new concept, said Bessette, but it’s one that has been fully embraced at Community. The school incorporates technology to specifically target students’ strengths and weaknesses, she said.

New Principal Cheryl Vaughn also credited reading specialist Patricia Pora, former Principal Cindy Giroux, as well as teachers and staff with their work making Community School such a standout educational institution.

She said the school has been on the forefront in implementing positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), a proactive approach designed to promote a culture of success, and has also been innovative in implementing educational advances like Thinking Maps, consistent visual patterns linked to specific thought processes.

Personalized learning is all about catching students before they fail, said Vaughn. Students at Community participate in designing their own learning path, she said. Students and teachers work together to look at data and analyze where they need help, she said.

For example, a student struggling in math might be given certain tasks in an online math portal specifically designed to let that student practice an “interaction with a concrete skill,” she said.

Now in its 35th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized more than 8,500 schools. This year’s honorees will be celebrated at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 6-7.

“This level of achievement requires incredible commitment at every level, from the school and district leaders to the classroom teachers and to the families supporting students at home. Each has a role to play in supporting student success and closing achievement gaps, and each has contributed to this distinction,” said Ken Wagner, commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Rhode Island. “I am so proud of our winners, and I wish them continued success as leaders in education.”

Fifth-grader Elijah Grant receives help with math from his teacher, Nicole Franco, on Monday. Community School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School under a program created by the U.S. government in 1982.
Community Elementary School English teacher Betsy Yost encourages her students to think about what is said in the book “Esperanza Rising.”
Andrew Nocera, a 5th-grader at Community School, responds to a question from his teacher Monday.
Talor Bessette, a 5th-grader, carefully marks the answers in his math book Monday. At right is his classmate Elijah Grant.


Great accomplishment.

I kind of waited to see the comments before I put my two cents in. If their was something about budgets, contracts, or something else that bothered people the comment section would be full but when you see something that everyone should be proud of on one person posted a positive comment. Congratulations to teachers and students at Community School