Local school receives national award

Lori Blehm, Kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Heights Elementary, works with Max Mickey, Kindergartner at Lincoln Heights Elmentary, during workplace time. The students are working on numbers and counting which is a Bridges Math Program that teaches math concepts.

Lincoln Heights Elementary has been recognized as a National Distinguished Title I School. There is only one other school in the state of Nebraska that has been recognized.

The National Title I Association has been selecting Title I schools for recognition since 1966 and 178 schools have been selected since then. This provides an opportunity for schools to be publicly recognized for their achievements.

Jodi Benson, principal of Lincoln Heights Elementary, received an email last month from the National Title I Director for the State of Nebraska which stated Lincoln Heights qualifies to apply as a National Distinguished Title I School. By Oct. 20, Benson filled out some questions and the different criteria that were required for the application. The school received a notification on Nov. 5 that they were selected to be a National Distinguished Title I School.

In order to be nominated, all schools have to have a poverty rate of 35 percent, demonstrate high academic achievement for two or more consecutive years, and meet or exceed state standards for making adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years. The two different categories for Nationally Distinguished Schools are Sustained Achievement Gap and Closing the Gap. Lincoln Heights Elementary qualified for both and Benson commented that this was made possible through a sincere and deliberate commitment to the belief that all students can meet high academic standards.

“As educators we have the ability and the responsibility to help all children reach their maximum potential,” said Benson.

Lincoln Heights Elementary has shown an increase in all of the subjects for the Nebraska State Accountability scores in the last year, except for fourth grade reading and math scores, which have stayed steady. There has also been a significant growth with the scores in the past three years. “We just feel like we are school that works hard to make our students feel safe, supported and engaged,” said Crystal Sandberg, instructional coach for Lincoln Heights Elementary.

The administration at the school does not allow a lot of the students to make excuses and the students are challenged constantly. According to Sandberg, the school has full-time paraprofessionals and a special education teacher that are a huge help. Altogether, there are 18 certified teachers and 10 paraprofessionals at the school. There is about a 70-percent poverty level at the school so Lincoln Heights Elementary as well as all the schools in the district continue to push the free and reduced meals as well as the link of behavior and academics in the classroom.

Lincoln Heights Elementary has stayed close to the district learning guide but they also work hard as a team and everybody has high expectations for all students.

“We’re excited. Our staff works so hard to improve student achievement,” said Benson.

Sandberg said that there are well thought-out and well-designed learning guides that have been provided by the district. They have great materials to work with and the teachers do a great job of implementing the materials. Sandberg also said that are still things to improve, too, and that every year is a new year to improve the different aspects of the school.

Lincoln Heights will be honored along with all other national recipients at the National Title I Conference in Houston, Texas in late January.

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