By Tippi Rasp
OKARCHE — The certified teaching staff at Okarche Elementary School is reaping the rewards of preparing their students well enough to earn the highest test scores of any school its size.
The teachers each received a $2,000 cash prize recently under a program to boost student achievement from the state Legislature. Okarche Elementary is one of 10 schools in the state to earn the Academic Achievement Award, which awards schools with the highest and most improved Academic Performance Index scores.
Every certified employee, including teachers, counselors and principals at the 10 schools, received the prize.
Okarche Elementary School Principal Traci Fuller said teachers were “really excited” to learn they had been named an award winner. They were even more excited when they learned about the prize.
“The teachers were stunned when they found out about the cash prize,” Fuller said.
Fuller said the award is a validation of the work they have done and of the caliber of students they have.
“This is nice because we always knew we had the brightest kids,” Fuller said. “We have a very supportive community.”
A 20-year veteran of Okarche Public Schools, Fuller said the teachers probably were going to use the money to pay themselves back for the out-of-pocket expenses they’ve incurred as teachers over the years. She said they were very thankful to receive the recognition.
“We work really hard with the students on all areas,” Fuller said.
The Academic Performance Index is a numeric score that measures school performance. It is the foundation of Oklahoma’s school accountability system, a requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Schools face penalties and sanctions if they do not meet federal standards for improvement in reading and math test scores, the number of students who take standardized tests, and attendance or graduation rates.
Fuller, who has been an English teacher, librarian and assistant principal at the high school, said teachers want to continue to maintain high standards.
“We would sure love to continue to stay on the top,” Fuller said. “It definitely gives us something to shoot for next year.”
Other schools who earned the Academic Achievement Award were: Eisenhower International School, Eugene Field and Lindbergh elementary schools in Tulsa, Hayward Elementary School in Owasso, Okmulgee Middle School, Straight Elementary School in Texas County, Bokoshe Junior High School in LeFlore County, Oakridge Elementary School in Oklahoma City and Rivers Elementary School in Altus.
The awards were enacted and funded in House Bill 1992 during the 2005 legislative session.
The Academic Achievement Award program recognizes, in each of five school-size categories, the school with the highest Academic Performance Index (API) score in the state (including special education and alternative students) and, in each of the same five categories, the school with the most-improved API score.