HARROD — School had been out for two-plus hours, but on this random Thursday plenty of vehicles remained in the staff parking lot outside Allen East School.
Elementary Principal Larry Altenburger took notice to the scene he witnessed many nights.
“I just don’t think people realize how much time teachers put into the job,” he said. “The teachers really do work hard. The parents are very supportive, and the students respond well. It has been a great effort on everyone’s part.”
Altenburger credits that extra time and commitment to why his school is again being recognized by the state. The school is one of 54 to be deemed a High Progress School of Honor by the Ohio Department of Education. It is the first year of the award.
The award comes just a few weeks after Allen East Elementary was one of 164 in the state to be named a School of Promise. The high school also got a recent shout out, earning a bronze-medal designation by U.S. News and World Report.
“This is just another example that we are educating all students at the Allen East Local Schools, and our staff and building administrators are doing a tremendous job, and we continue to grow,” Superintendent Michael Richards said. “We do not rest on things we have done in the past. We continue to look for new and better things to move forward.”
Thirty-eight schools were also named High Performing Schools of Honor this week. Both awards recognize schools that sustained high academic achievement and made substantial progress while serving a significant number of economically disadvantaged students.
Locally, Hardin Central Elementary School in Kenton and Washington Elementary School in Findlay were also named High Progress Schools of Honor.
High Progress Schools score in the top 10 percent of schools as ranked by gains in reading and math combined proficiency in all tested grades across five years. They are also in the top 10 percent for gains in graduation rate across the past five years. Adequate Yearly Progress, value-added measures of student growth and report card ratings are also considered.
Allen East officials point to several things leading to the recent success, including an extended school day reading program and a reading academy held in the summer. Altenburger said moving to an all-day, everyday kindergarten program three years ago has been crucial.
“That has been huge,” he said. “At about the halfway point, they are where they had previously been in April and May. It is a night and day difference.”
The school created a two-year kindergarten program this year for pupils not quite ready for first grade.
Family support and volunteers are also big components of the success, Altenburger said. Along with volunteers often seen reading in the hallways with students, the school uses the Project More program. It brings parents, grandparents and high school students to the elementary school to help with reading.
“There are scripted lessons,” he said. “Volunteers know exactly what to do, and the students have shown steady improvement.”
Altenburger said the school being in one building has also been positive. It allows for better communication, he said, between elementary and middle school teachers. It also allows teachers to communicate with high school staff and for high school students to mentor and work with elementary pupils. The district previously had three buildings.
The school will soon get a banner displaying the most recent honor. Richards said while it's nice to get the recent recognitions, Allen East has always been a good school district. The district has been deemed excellent on the state report card the past three years, and the elementary has been excellent with distinction two of the last three years.
“This separates us from some of the other schools,” he said. “But our performance is nothing new. They are just rewarding us for a job well done.”