Altamont Elementary School’s designation as a Reward School has led to the district receiving $75,000 to enhance professional development.
The State Education Department awarded the grant funding, which will be used for additional professional development and helping the school spread what their best practices are for achieving success. Student performances from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years were used to determine the designation.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton announced the grant at the Guilderland Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 17.
Similar to other state test scores across other schools in the district and state, Altamont Principal Peter Brabant said the school had “quite a dramatic drop” following implementation of the Common Core standards.
“Last year, when I was sitting there with my head in my hands trying to make sense of this on one day, the next day, I get a letter from the Department of Education saying, ‘Congratulations, you are a Reward School,’” Brabant said. “It was difficult to juxtapose the two when we were struggling with the drop in scores.”
The opportunity to receive the grant was an added bonus to the designation, Brabant said.
“First, I was just happy for the piece of paper, and then I was more happy there could be green paper along with it,” he said.
The designation was given because Altamont was able to have similar scores for all students.
“We have relatively small achievement gaps between our overall population of economically disadvantaged students, as well as students with disabilities, and that is what the Reward School identification most addressed,” Brabant said.
Altamont had 59 children qualifying for free and reduced meals at the beginning of this school year, which accounted for 20 percent of its students. The school also has the largest percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced meals in the district.
Guilderland and Westmere elementary schools have more students qualifying for such meals, but the percentages are, respectively, 13.7 percent and 16.8 percent.
The environment of the smaller school is what Brabant said helped achieved the designation.
“I think it allows us the unique ability to get to know the students and who they are as learners and to really target very specifically on their needs for growth, academically and socially,” Brabant said. “When you connect those two pieces … you can really make some gains with kids in good ways.”
Brabant said there might have been similar results at other schools in the district, but the percentages of free and reduced lunch or students with disabilities might have been lower.
“All of the elementary schools in our school district are excellent and do the same work,” Brabant said. “This reward does not indicate that any one school is doing better than all the other schools.”
Pine Bush Elementary School also received Reward School designation, but was not awarded grant funding. Every Reward School can apply for a grant.
Brabant said school leaders are meeting with district administrators to determine exactly how the grant funding can be spent.
“Basically, what we are hoping to do is get professional development and services that enhance delivery of instruction to our students,” he said.