Phoenix named a School of Recognition for ‘beating the odds’

DELAVAN — For the second time this summer, Phoenix Middle School in the Delavan-Darien School District received an award for demonstrating an improving school climate.

Phoenix earned a 2013-14 Wisconsin Title I School of Recognition Award and was a “beating the odds” school, as named by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Phoenix was one of 167 Wisconsin schools earning a School of Recognition Award this year, which recognizes success in educating students from low-income families. Schools qualify on the basis of being high achieving, high progress and/or beating the odds.

See the News Release from the Wisconsin DPI

“What a great way to start the school year,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said in a statement. “By recognizing schools for their success at educating our students, we put the focus where it belongs: on our children.”

As a “beating the odds” school, Phoenix Middle School has:

  • Had above-average student achievement in reading and math when compared to similar-sized schools from like-sized districts with similar grade configurations and poverty levels;
  • Met the state’s test-participation, attendance and dropout goals;
  • Been placed in one of the top three accountability index categories of “meeting expectations,” “exceeding expectations” or “significantly exceeding expectations” on school report cards.

Phoenix, the only “beating the odds” school in Walworth County, also qualified for the award because the school is in the top 25 percent of Wisconsin schools for the percentage of students receiving federal free and reduced-priced school meals.

All award-winning schools receive federal Title I funding to provide services to high numbers or high percentages o economically disadvantaged children.

Mark Weerts

Phoenix Principal Mark Weerts

“Our staff and students have worked hard to make our school a better place for all learners,” Principal Mark Weerts said. “I am very proud of the work they’ve done and they truly are deserving of this award.”

Phoenix students have seen gains in reading and math on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam the past several years. Some highlights* include doubling the percentage of sixth graders who were advanced in math between 2009 and 2011, and growing the percentage of advanced sixth grade readers each year between 2007 and 2011. Also, the percentage of advanced and proficient seventh grade students in math went up about 15 percent between 2010 and 2011.

As an award-winner, representatives from the school will attend a recognition ceremony with State Superintendent Evers at the State Capitol Rotunda at noon Tuesday, Oct. 8.

The school will receive a $500 prize, a commemorative plaque and marketing materials about being an award-winner. Phoenix teachers are also eligible to compete for the Wisconsin Title I Schools of Recognition Teacher Fellowship Program, which funds professional development opportunities.

The School of Recognition Award is the second honor bestowed upon Phoenix Middle School since the end of the 2012-13 school year.

In June, the Wisconsin PBIS Network (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) recognized Phoenix as a “School of Merit” (story) for implementing a high-quality, school-wide student behavioral program.

PBIS, or “The Comet Code” as it is known at Phoenix, is a proactive approach that establishes safer and more effective schools throughout the country. It is currently being implemented by about 47 percent of schools in the state and Phoenix was one of 146 schools recognized as a School of Merit for the 2012-13 school year, according to a congratulatory letter from Carolyn Stanford Taylor, assistant state superintendent in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Division for Learning Support.

Since being rolled out in the midst of the 2011-12 school year, Phoenix has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of student office referrals and suspensions for both major and minor offenses. Far fewer behavior problems at the school have helped lead to a more positive school atmosphere and a better learning environment for all students and staff.

*Editor’s Note: As WKCE testing benchmarks were changed in 2012, test data from last year’s test is not directly comparable to prior years.


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