State superintendent recognizes Dewey School's 10th straight 'Spotlight' award

State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch poses for pictures with Dewey Elementary students following a Honor Roll Ceremony for the Spotlight award. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Feb. 25, 2013 5:00 pm Updated: Mar. 11, 2013 6:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The streak lives.

Dewey School's unprecedented run of earning "Spotlight School" status from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) reached 10 years Monday.

Christopher A. Koch, the state superintendent of education, recognized Dewey's accomplishment at a special assembly attended by students, staff, local and regional school officials, politicians and community leaders.

Since the state instituted the Illinois Honor Roll program a decade ago, Dewey is the only one of about 4,000 public schools -- elementary, junior high and high school -- to be named a Spotlight School every year.

Spotlight status singles out high-poverty, high-performing schools "that are beating the odds by overcoming the achievement gap," according to information supplied by the ISBE. Only 105 schools statewide earned Spotlight status this year.

"Dewey School is a place where both teachers and students show their leadership skills," Koch told an appreciative audience. "The educators, parents and students of these (Spotlight) schools should be very proud of this achievement, especially during a time when the state and many districts are facing added economic pressures with cuts to education.

"I'm thrilled to be with all of you ... at Dewey, where consistent hard work has paid off year after year."

Mayor John Spring was one of those taking in the assembly.

"This is exciting and wonderful -- 10 years of excellence," Spring said. "It's important to have a strong (model of) public education."

Krista Finklea, principal at Dewey School for three years, emphasized the award(s) never get old and complacency is never a problem.

"This is special," Finklea said. "This validates all of the hard work of our staff and students."

Dewey has 257 students in kindergarten through third grade.

"Without everyone working together, something like this would not happen," Finklea said.

One requirement to earn Spotlight status is that a school must make "adequate yearly progress," which means at least 85 percent of the school's students must pass state achievement tests in reading and math. At Dewey, 88 percent of the school's students met the testing standards in 2012, even though 71.4 percent of the student population came from low-income homes.

Finklea said as the state proceeds with plans to adopt "common core" standards statewide, it may become "extremely tough" for schools to make AYP next year because the state is raising the testing standards for elementary schools.

The only other area school earning Spotlight School status was Nauvoo Elementary School, where 91 percent of the school's students met or exceeded testing standards. The school has a low-income population of 51.4 percent.

The ISBE also announced Monday that 454 schools in Illinois won "Academic Excellence" awards in the Honor Roll program, meaning they sustained high performance for at least three years. Another 81 schools earned "Academic Improvement" awards for showing substantial improvement.

None of those schools are in the four-county area of West-Central Illinois covered by The Herald-Whig.