School gets national recognition

Originally Published December 9, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 7, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
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Students at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in the Melbourne School District listen to a lesson in the school’s computer lab. The school was recently named a Title I School of Distinction.

Students, staff and parents at Mount Pleasant Elementary School have a new reason to celebrate after years of hard work.

The school, part of the Melbourne School District, has been named a National Title I Distinguished School by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The department, along with the National Association of State Title I Directors, annually gives the honor to up to two schools in the state. Schools must fall in the Title I category and have been shown to have “exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years” or have closed “the achievement gap between student groups,” according to the department. Designated Title I public schools often receive state funding assistance as a result of large portions of students coming from low-income families.

School principal Carolyn Blevins found out about the honor in mid-November.

“I hadn’t even told my staff that I’d filled out the applications for the process because I didn’t want them to be disappointed,” Blevins said. “When I finally heard, it was after the end of the day, so I sent them all a text message. Everyone was so excited.”

Mount Pleasant Elementary was honored in part because the school exceeded its adequate yearly progress in recent years, and students have done well on their Arkansas Comprehensive Testing Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) scores, including the state’s Benchmark exams that are given in grades 3-6.

“In the last couple years, we’ve had anywhere from 95 to 100 percent of our students in grades 3-6 score in the proficient or advanced range on the exam,” Blevins said.

According to Blevins, there are around 135 students enrolled at Mount Pleasant, with a staff of around 13 teachers. Staff members have not changed their teaching methods in recent years to boost test scores but have instead focused on traditional curriculum that puts an emphasis on writing and critical-thinking skills.

“We’re more old-fashioned and just drill, drill, drill,” Blevins said. “We try to teach the students to write out responses instead of relying on multiple-choice tests.”

Mount Pleasant Elementary was also honored as a Blue Ribbon School in 2009 for improvements in academic achievement.

In January, staff members from the school will travel to Nashville to attend the National Title I Conference, where they will receive a

banner to be hung in the school gym. Blevins said she is excited to meet other educators at the conference and learn from their successes.

Mount Pleasant Elementary is not the first school in the Three Rivers area to be honored as a Title I Distinguished School. Past honored schools include Gibbs Albright Elementary School in Newport, Lonoke Middle School in Lonoke, Arnold Drive Elementary School in Jacksonville and Warren Dupree Elementary School in Jacksonville.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

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