STRONG — Students at Strong Elementary School have gained national attention for being one of the top performing schools over the past three years in Maine.

The school in School Administrative District 58 was recently named a National Title I Distinguished School for 2011, making it one of the two schools statewide being recognized by the federal assistance program for economically disadvantaged students, according to Rachelle Tome, director of the program in Maine.

There are about 420 schools statewide in the program that compete for the distinction, which is awarded annually based on student scores on standardized math and reading tests over the previous three years, Tome said.

Some of the best test scores during that period came from the elementary school in Strong, with 181 students in grades kindergarten to eight from several Franklin County towns.

“It shows that the school and students have an attitude of doing whatever is takes to achieve their goals, regardless of the challenges they face,” Tome said of the distinction.

The schools in the Title I program get additional federal assistance that is allocated based on income eligibility, with about $54 million getting distributed to school districts statewide each year, Tome said.

SAD 58 Superintendent Brenda Stevens praised the students and educators at the Strong school for working hard to maintain the high level of academic excellence required to earn the award.

“It’s based on consistent performance over time, and they have a history of being one the best schools,” she said.

In 2005, the elementary school was recognized by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program for being in the top 10 percent of schools nationwide based on test scores and other performance standards, according to Stevens and another school official.

Stevens and other school officials did not know the recent history of standardized test scores for students in Strong. Surry Elementary School — in School Union 93 — was the other Maine school to be recognized last year for standout performance in the Title I program.

Stevens said none of the Strong school’s success would have been possible without a stable learning environment, which flourishes because many of the teachers at the school have taught there for decades.

“It’s a great group of teachers and they are always striving to help students do great things,” she said.

Felecia Pease has been the principal at the school for 24 years, working alongside many of the same people the entire time. She has seen the teachers and staff build lasting relationships with community members to get parents and residents alike involved in the school, she said.

“We have a very, very supportive community and that has made a big difference for the children,” Pease said.

Administrators plan to hang a National Title I Distinguished School banner at the school later this month, with an assembly to acknowledge the students and challenge them to keep up the good work, she said.

“We want to show them that we are always continuing to strive to do our best,” she said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

About the program

The National Distinguished School Program is a project of the National Title I Association, a non-profit advocacy group that promotes and supports the Title I program.

Two schools from each state nationwide are recognized annually for standout performance in the program. The education departments of each state determine the criteria for the award, with standards that vary from standardized test scores to innovative education programs.

The Title I program is the largest federally funded program for pre-college education, providing more than $15 billion annually to school districts for supplemental programs to aid economically disadvantaged students.

The Title I program was initiated as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. The program part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which falls under the existing No Child Left Behind Act.

Source: The National Title I Association and Rachelle Tome, director of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in Maine.


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