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4-star Milltown shines bright

4-star Milltown shines bright
4-star Milltown shines bright
Milltown Elementary School students and staff, including Principal Tami Geltmaker, foreground, celebrate being named a Four-Star School by the Indiana Dept. of Education during a ceremony May 5. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

Off the heels of winning the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Award a couple of years ago, Milltown Elementary School celebrated another milestone achievement last week after becoming a Four-Star School by the Indiana Dept. of Education.
Whereas the Blue Ribbon program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their state or demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement, the Four Star program recognizes schools that have demonstrated academic excellence (by placing in the state upper quartile), high student attendance rates, mathematics proficiency scores and language arts proficiency scores.
Schools must meet all legal standards and also make Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind for a particular year.
Receiving a Four Star Award is an honor which the state recognizes by issuing an award certificate suitable for framing and display in a school.
In the past, MES had been close to winning the accolade. Language and math scores weren’t the problem; however, attendance was. In 2006, Milltown’s attendance was 97.05 percent, which was enough to gain the Four Star Award.
In the classroom, the cutoff score for both English-language arts and mathematics was 56, with Milltown reaching 58 and 61, respectively. The percentage that passed both tests was 79 percent, with 75 percent being the cutoff. The attendance rate cutoff was .9687, and Milltown turned in an effort of .9705.
On May 5, students and faculty at MES gathered in the gymnasium for a celebratory ceremony honoring everyone involved with the achievement.
During her opening remarks, Milltown Elementary principal Tami Geltmaker welcomed everyone to what she described as ‘an absolutely wonderful morning.’
Ruby Deaton, a former staff member at MES who is now part of the special education co-op, was the keynote speaker.
‘When I started teaching at Milltown Elementary, it was already a great school with great teachers who did great things in the classroom,’ Deaton said. ‘But in 1990, the state mandated that we produce a school improvement plan. How were we going to make our school better than it was?’
The answer, Deaton said, was in the process by which the teachers presented their lessons.
‘We had great teachers at every level but not great instruction at every level,’ she said. ‘We needed every teacher to know what needed to be taught at every grade level and know what they taught had an effect on what was taught at the next grade level. Teachers began teaching with the next grade level in mind.’
When discussing addition, one class might use ‘plus’ and another ‘add,’ or the other way around; one class may have used ‘subtract’ and another ‘take away.’ She said consistent language was to be used to alleviate any confusion on the part of students.
There was also an upgrade in geography tools.
‘We had some maps in the upper grades that were 20 years old and, in the lower grade levels, we have had maps that were maybe 50 years old, so the PTO and parents helped us acquire new maps and globes,’ Deaton said.
‘We established a vision: What do you want to be, and at Milltown we want nothing but the best. Reaching Four Star was challenging but challenges are opportunities to grow,’ said Dr. Mark Eastridge, superintendent of the Crawford County Community School Corp.
Other honored guests included Bonita Embry Coots, president and CEO of Community Foundation of Crawford County, and Maxine Standiford Redding, board of directors-chair of CFCC, which was instrumental in helping launch full-time kindergarten in Crawford County. Crawford County Commissioner Larry Bye and Crawford County school board member Debbie Kaiser were also on hand.
Second-grade students Sageland Fell and Jessica Collins read items they wrote describing why Milltown Elementary was a good school, and fifth-grade student Zoren Parker performed a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s hit, ‘God Bless the USA.’