Making connections: Consolidated Elementary rated top school in state
MILTON—The best elementary school in the state sits on the corner of County F and North Consolidated School Road in the middle of several cornfields.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released its report cards for school districts and individual schools. Consolidated Elementary School's score was 98.1, earning it a rating of “significantly exceeds expectations.”
That score also places it first among the 1,201 public elementary schools in the state, according to the DPI.
The district and school report cards rate schools on more than just test scores. The scores also consider student growth, absenteeism, dropout rates and the efforts schools are making to close the gap between socioeconomic groups and racially diverse students.
The score cards assign each school district and school a number and a category: "fails to meet expectations," "meets few expectations," "meets expectations," "exceeds expectations" and "significantly exceeds expectations."
Susan Stuckey, principal at Consolidated Elementary School, noted that all of Milton's elementary schools earned scores that placed them in the “significantly exceeds expectations” category. Harmony Elementary's score was 87.3; East Elementary got an 85.5; and West Elementary scored 84.1.
What's the formula for success at the elementary school level?
“There are several factors at play,” Stuckey said. “One is the curriculum. We've worked really hard to have a universal curriculum that's solid across all of our elementary schools.”
The Milton district has changed the way it teaches reading and writing, and it wants to make sure all the teachers are “on the same page” with the new methods, Stuckey said.
A universal curriculum provides consistency and makes it easier for teachers to work together, said Heather Slosarek, Milton director of curriculum and instruction.
“It provides strong and consistent expectations for staff and teachers,” she said. “It allows opportunities for brainstorming and collaboration among the (teacher) teams.”
The elementary schools also have worked hard on “connectedness”—connecting students with each other and connecting staff with students, Stuckey said.
“We want students to feel that sense of belonging in schools,” she said. “At Consolidated in particular, that's huge reason why the school is so successful and has done so well. Everyone knows everyone; it's such a tight community.”
Parents are involved at the school, and the staff knows every one of the 81 students by name, Stuckey said.
How does “connectedness” translate into academic success?
“We know that students have to feel safe to learn, and part of being safe is feeling that sense of belonging,” Stuckey said. “Knowing that there is someone they can talk to if they are having a hard time, knowing that they are cared for, knowing that they are in a place where they can take risks in their learning and that they can try hard things and take risks—all of those things are related to that feeling of belonging, of feeling connected.”