By Andreas Yilma and Lance Reynolds, Staff
NAUGATUCK — Andrew Avenue Elementary School is being recognized among the best nationwide for closing student achievement gaps.
Andrew Avenue on Sept. 21 was named a National Blue Ribbon School by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Andrew Avenue was one of four schools in the state to earn the honor along with Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted, Frisbie Elementary School in Wolcott and Thames River Magnet School in Groton.
A total of 325 schools — 302 public and 23 private — nationwide were recognized.
Andrew Avenue was named an exemplary school based on closing the achievement gap between students with high needs and those without high needs over the past several years. High need students include those learning the English language, special education students with individualized education plans, and students who come from economically disadvantaged homes and qualify for free or reduced lunch.
During a celebration with students and teachers outside Andrew Avenue on Sept. 21, Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini and school principal Lisa LaChance highlighted how school teachers and support staff developed social, emotional and instructional strategies that have led to growth for students.
“It was a schoolwide team approach to doing that where they have systems of support embedded throughout the day to help all students achieve at high levels,” Montini said.
LaChance said educators at the school have built a close-knit community. She said they support and work well together, which helps build success in the classroom.
“I’m so happy that the teachers are getting recognized for it,” she said.
Gary Meier, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, said in an email the honor is a cumulative success achieved through a series of meaningful and coordinated actions taken by all stakeholders, including the students.
“That’s our culture. I see our students’ successes captured in the countless teachable moments that happen between the bells each day,” he said.
In the 2017-18 school year, the growth high needs students made in English and math on statewide assessments outpaced the growth of all students at the school. In 2018-19, high needs students outpaced all students in math.
Statewide tests were not administered in the 2019-20 school year due to the pandemic.
Andrew Avenue serves students in kindergarten through fourth grade and has 229 students enrolled this year. It has been recognized for two consecutive years by the state Department of Education as a School of Distinction for being in the top 10% of the state for student growth on state tests.
“At Andrew Avenue, they have high expectations for all. So they expect that all kids are going to do it and then they really help them get there,” Montini said. “That was evident in the last few years when we had the state assessment data, when we would do some kind of assessment or screening at the beginning of the year and we had several grade levels that would get to 100% of students making growth. They focus on the growth of every child no matter where they are.”
Naugatuck is the part of the state Alliance District program, which provides funding to the state’s 33 lowest-performing districts.
School officials are invited to attend a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November to celebrate the achievement.
“This is a first for Naugatuck, which was truly amazing,” Montini said.