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Local school honored at state, national level

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 4, 2015

 Title I reading specialist Ann Marie Maccani and Princeton Elementary School Principal Justin Cabe stand in the Title I reading room at Princeton Elementary, which was named a National Title I Distinguished School.

Title I reading specialist Ann Marie Maccani and Princeton Elementary School Principal Justin Cabe stand in the Title I reading room at Princeton Elementary, which was named a National Title I Distinguished School.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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Taking time to focus on each individual child has paid off for a local school, which is being recognized as a National Title I Distinguished School.

Princeton Elementary School Principal Justin Cabe said that being recognized by the state and at the national level is a large honor.

“I’m so proud of our teachers,” he said. “It’s one thing ... to hit our targets one year, but to have it be the next year and then some is huge for us. It shows we take our data very seriously, and the teachers use the data in real time to drive their instruction.”

Princeton Elementary, in Lakeview Public Schools, was the Category 1 Award winner to be recognized as a National Title I Distinguished School. A Category 1 school has shown exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years, and has successfully exceeded targets in reading and math on state and local assessments for the 2013-14 school year, and on local assessments for the 2014-15 school year.

There is a second award given out for Title I schools each year as well. The Category 2 Award winner has successfully closed the achievement gap between students, and this year Michigan’s winner in that category was Courtade Elementary School in Traverse City Public Schools.

Fred Williams, manager of the Office of Field Services for the Michigan Department of Education, said that every year the office takes a look at school data and develops a list of 20 schools in each category.

“We invite them to apply by sending us some data and some narrative on how they think using the Title I money helped them to be high achieving,” Williams said, explaining that a panel of six MDE representatives then looks over the applications and sends two schools in each category to be considered for the award to the state Superintendent’s Office.

Being named a winner means that the school is using its Title I money well to supplement core academics.

“They all work together, and they maximize the resources of Title I for supplementary programs for the kids who aren’t making it,” Williams said. Doing so, he added, “means your scores are always better.”

“We’re very happy that that school was chosen,” he added.

Title I is a federal funding program based on the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, the number of homeless students at a school and the average income level of families attending the school. Princeton Elementary was first named a Title I school in the 2009-10 school year; about half the schools in the state receive Title I aid.

“The government provides funds that go to target intervention and to help schools that might have some of these outlying criteria,” Cabe said. The honor shows that Princeton is “taking that money and using it appropriately, and beating the odds of people who are in the same boat as we are.”

Cabe said they are still focusing on educating each individual child at the school, which has increased its enrollment from 480 to 550 students in the past year.

“Every child matters at Princeton, and there’s no cracks; our job is to seal the cracks,” he said. “It comes right down to collecting the appropriate data and knowing what to do with it.”

To that end, the school’s crossing guards have been cross-trained as reading intervention specialists. They each spend an hour each day after their shift outside working with about six children on their reading skills. The children spend about 10 minutes each day with the intervention specialists using a specialized program so that they can quickly be assessed and receive additional individualized help at their level.

There is also a math intervention specialist at the school who keeps tabs on every student and pulls them out for individualized instruction, and helps them catch up to grade level when they are falling behind.

“She gets them at their level (and then) takes it to the next level to catch them up,” Cabe said.

Teachers at the school also use formative assessments to individualize instruction for students.

“Students learn in different ways, and the teacher is identifying which child learns in which way and meeting them at that point,” Cabe said. “Out of 550 kids ... I would say we have about 550 lesson plans going at every one time.

“The sky’s the limit on what we can do, so I’m very, very proud of our teachers.”

The Michigan Department of Education will pay for Cabe and three others from Princeton to attend the National Title I Conference, to be held in Houston, Texas, at the end of January. There, the school will receive the Title I Distinguished Schools recognition.

“Princeton’s always prided itself on putting student achievement first, and we continue to work. Every day is a new challenge, every year is a new challenge, and we look forward to continuing to work with our families, with our students to help make them the best they can be,” Cabe said.

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