Blue Ridge Elementary off state's list of lowest-achieving schools

Among the highlights of the school's academic progress: The district's top science scores for fifth-graders.

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WALLA WALLA -- Academic changes at Blue Ridge Elementary School have led to gains in achievement that have bumped the school off the list of the state's lowest-achieving schools.

On Monday the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released a list of state schools ranking in the bottom five percent based on federal guidelines aligned to state test scores. After a year on the list, Blue Ridge was not among them this time around.

In 2010, Blue Ridge was among the state schools targeted for improvement based on three years of low scores on the state standardized exam.

As a result, Blue Ridge went through a third-party academic performance review to evaluate areas for improvement and any potential need for drastic change. Through the review process, a school improvement plan was developed.

In a year's time, Blue Ridge expanded it's dual-language program, and continued the academic program of "platooning," in which teachers in the upper grades specialize in core subjects and teach that subject to all students.

Blue Ridge kindergarten students started school four weeks early this school year, and students can take advantage of an extended school day through after-school programing that focuses on developing math skills.

Last year's testing of the Measurements of Student Progress by Blue Ridge students showed improvements in math, reading and writing, as well as the district's top science scores for fifth-graders.

Blue Ridge is a high-poverty school, with almost 90 percent of students meeting poverty guidelines. A majority of Blue Ridge students also come from Spanish-speaking homes.

Linda Boggs, assistant superintendent of curriculum for Walla Walla Public Schools, said the academic performance review served to reinforce that changes implemented at Blue Ridge under principal Kim Doepker were steering the school toward improvement.

Doepker was named to lead Blue Ridge in 2009, and the school was shown improvement each year since she took over leadership. Doepker was recently recognized as a top principal in the state by other elementary principals in the region.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

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