News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 20, 2014
BHCS named high performing school by Maine DOE

Reading together at Blue Hill Consolidated School

From left, Blue Hill Consolidated School student Paige Gray, teacher Tara McKechnie, and students Zane Bulget and Josh Williams participate in a reading group. The school was named a High Performance Reward School by the Maine Department of Education.

Photo courtesy of Blue Hill Consolidated School

by Anne Berleant

In the space of four years, Blue Hill Consolidated School has gone from being placed on “monitor status” to being a High Performance Reward School.

The Kindergarten through eighth grade school is one of 19 schools statewide that showed the “greatest levels of improvement and performance,” according to a March 13 press release from the Maine Department of Education.

“Overall, we have always performed well, but it has not necessarily been the case with low-income kids,” said Principal Della Martin after receiving official notification from the Maine DOE.

After being placed on monitor status in 2010-11 for math, based on the achievement gap between Title I and other students in the fifth grade, and then for reading (but not math) the following year for the same group of students, the school stepped up its “wraparound services,” Martin said. These included Response to Intervention (RTI), a program designed to help lagging students, work on literacy and homework club.

In addition, universal student screening through AIMSweb helped identify students who needed intervention, years before the tool was implemented throughout Union 93 in 2013.

“We’re always looking at where are we the weakest and where do we need to put our attention,” Martin said.

School classifications like “monitor status” or “high performance” are based on New England Common Assessment Program tests taken each October by third through eighth graders and school attendance statistics.

Schools placed on monitor status are deemed by the Maine DOE not to be making adequate yearly progress toward student proficiency in math or reading or with attendance below 93 percent. If monitor status schools do not become proficient, they are in danger of losing state funding.

“Dear Remarkable Staff,” Martin wrote in a letter distributed school-wide, “I am officially tooting our own horn.”

Criteria for being a High Performance Reward School includes being among the top 15 percent in School Accountability Indexes, which measure the progress toward all students reaching high achievement levels; meeting special education targets; have met state math and reading proficiency targets; and are not within the lowest 25 percent of schools with the highest achievement gaps in math and reading proficiencies.

Martin stressed the importance of a strong relationship between students, parents and teachers. “That’s the key to everything, working together. [Otherwise] it’s the three-legged stool that can’t stand up.”

Reading together at Blue Hill Consolidated School

From left, Blue Hill Consolidated School student Paige Gray, teacher Tara McKechnie, and students Zane Bulget and Josh Williams participate in a reading group. The school was named a High Performance Reward School by the Maine Department of Education.

Photo courtesy of Blue Hill Consolidated School
Learning research skills at Blue Hill Consolidated School

Blue Hill Consolidated School middle-schooler Caleb Rhine works on research with social studies teacher Mark Baxter. The school was named a High Performance Reward School by the Maine Department of Education.

Photo courtesy of Blue Hill Consolidated School
Staff and student working together at Blue Hill Consolidated School

Ian Howell, a Blue Hill Consolidated School sixth grader, works with library teacher Beth Jackson during lunch hour.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Putting in extra on academics at Blue Hill Consolidated School

Max Severnyak, a Blue Hill Consolidated School sixth grader, works with library teacher Beth Jackson during lunch hour.

Photo by Anne Berleant Penobscot Bay Press file photo