Three Prince George's County elementary schools were named “Title I Superlative Highest Performing Reward Schools,” more than any other in the state, said Dr. Lillian Lowery, state superintendent of schools.
Lowery said Maryland had eight Title I Superlative schools. Title I schools are those that receive federal funds to boost academics in high-poverty schools. To qualify, a school must have at least 40 percent of its students receiving free and/or reduced lunch.
"That's huge. You should be really proud of that," Lowery said.
Lowery visited the three schools — Concord Elementary in District Heights, Robert Frost Elementary in New Carrollton and Seat Pleasant Elementary — on Dec. 6 to congratulate students, faculty and staff and to tour their facilities.
"It's such a great honor. Everyone puts their heart and soul into what they do, every day, for the children so to finally get this type of recognition really pays off," said Robert Frost Principal Renita Alexander.
Alexander credited her teachers for reducing the gap between at-risk students and the general population.
"They'll do anything it takes to help bridge that gap, and make sure those students are getting what they need so that they can make those goals, because the focus here is most definitely on excellence," Alexander said.
There are 412 Title I schools in Maryland with 57 in Prince George's County, said Geri Taylor Lawrence, program and improvement and family support specialist with the Maryland State Department of Education.
Of the 30 Title I schools across the state named Reward Schools — those recognized as being either high performance over two years or high improvement since 2007 — only eight were recognized as Superlative Highest Performing Reward Schools, meaning they met their progress targets for two consecutive years, with an achievement gap between "all students" and any lower-performing subgroup at or below 10 percent, Lawrence said.
In addition, the school must be within the top 10 percent of Title I schools showing the most improvement on the Maryland School Assessment between 2007 and 2011 and must have made an improvement of at least 18 percentage points for "all students," she said.
Lowery said the three county schools are doing “amazing work” and are helping to boost the state’s academic scores.
"If we can get students in challenged environments to do really, really well, then they carry the rest of us,” she said. “So this is really a phenomenal recognition, because it goes against the stereotype, the way people want to categorize our students, because what it demonstrates is that any child, in the right environment, with good teachers and leaders, can be successful. That's what these awards are all about.”