By Jim Misunas
ROZEL — Pawnee Heights High School and Pawnee Heights USD 496 made it official. The district recently recognized teachers and staff credited with the high school earning the 2013 Governor’s Achievement Award for its outstanding performance on both reading and math tests.
Eighteen Kansas high schools were recognized for the 7th annual Governor’s Achievement Awards, honoring top performing schools in the state.
The Kansas State Department of Education recognized Pawnee Heights as ranked among the top 5 percent of Kansas high schools in both reading and mathematics on the 2013 Kansas State Assessments. High schools were also measured for graduation rates.
“Our dedicated staff continues to provide a solid, quality education for our students,” said Dan Binder, Pawnee Heights principal and superintendent. “The parents have supported our school and the students have worked hard. We continue to reach the Standard of Excellence on the state assessments in math and reading every year.”
While most high schools were judged on one year’s testing, Pawnee Heights testing was measured over a four-year period. Just three Pawnee Heights sophomores were tested on reading and mathematics in 2013. The state requires a minimum of 30 students to be tested to qualify for a Governor’s Achievement Award.
“We know that without administrative support, highly qualified teachers, paraprofessionals, and other personnel, such achievement simply is not possible,” said Diane DeBacker, Kansas Commissioner of Education. “The Governor’s Achievement Award is a significant recognition for Kansas schools. The accomplishment recognizes a school’s high expectations and the ability of the school staff to assist students in achieving to those expectations.”
Binder said the district has created a positive learning environment.
“Above all else, the single most important thing about our school is the people and the culture they have created,” Binder said. “We have students that are willing to be motivated in their learning and a full staff of professionals who guide the process. Just as Dr. DeBacker suggests, we have quality people working together to help our students achieve and the results reward their efforts.”
Pawnee Heights earned a Bronze Medal Award in 2010 from U.S. News and World Report. Pawnee Heights Elementary School earned the Governor’s Award three years in a row from 2007 to 2009. Pawnee Heights has been honored five times; three years at the elementary level and twice at the high school.
To be considered for the award, the school must have been among the top five percent of schools in both reading and mathematics on the state assessments at its respective level and met one additional measure. For elementary schools and middle/junior high schools that measure is attendance and for high schools the additional measure is graduation rate.
Pawnee Heights, a small rural school district in western Pawnee County, takes advantage of its small size. Binder said the small-sized district provides for efficient one-on-one education.
The school also makes extensive use of technology such as distance learning in the ITV classroom, multiple computer platforms and software to promote learning, a 1-to-1 Ipad initiative for high school students, and virtual courses to expand the curriculum.
Tim Seltmann is the high school math teacher and Larue Cooper serves as junior high math instructor.
“Mr. Seltmann does a terrific job teaching mathematics at the high school level. Mrs. Larue Cooper does an exceptional job teaching math at the junior high level,” said Brian McVay, USD 496 director of virtual learning. “The students are building a solid foundation of learning when they start in kindergarten. I feel blessed to be part of the Pawnee Heights school district.”