KANSAS AVENUE Some students may come from families with a steady income, others from households where the next rent payment is in doubt, but all pupils at one elementary school are showing that achievement in the classroom is possible regardless of their economic background.
Edison Language Academy was named this week as one of 200 recipients of the 2008-09 Title I Academic Achievement Award by the California Department of Education, which every year honors schools where students have made strides toward reaching proficiency on state content standards.
The award is given only to Title I schools — institutions that receive federal funding and where at least 40 percent of students are on a free and reduced lunch program — that have gone above and beyond targets set for the yearly Academic Performance Index, which measures performance and growth. The school’s socio-economically disadvantaged students must also perform well on their set targets for two consecutive years.
“These schools deserve high praise for improving student achievement,” Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, said. “They have addressed barriers to student success and were able to create a school environment conducive to learning.”
In general, the goal in California is for all schools — regardless of whether or not they’re Title I — to achieve an API score of at least 800.
Located in the Pico Neighborhood, which has the highest concentration of low-income residents in the city, Edison Language Academy has received the award for the past four years and boasts an API growth of 130 points over the past five years. The scores for all subgroups, which include children from economically disadvantage families and English-language learners, has also increased over the past few years, according to Principal Lori Orum.
“We’re a lean organization and all of our resources go to kids, teaching and learning,” Orum said.
The school has adopted a focus on educating the whole child, looking at how they learn, what skills they have and strategies that educators could use to make students more successful.
“We believe an awful lot of achievement is related to how hard you work,” Orum said. “We’ve been working hard to teach those skills and to support them.”
Edison is unique in that it is a dual language academy, teaching students the curriculum in both English and Spanish. The school has approximately 425 students.
It is one of four elementary schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District that receive Title I funding, along with Will Rogers, John Muir and McKinley. Will Rogers has the highest concentration of students on the free and reduced lunch program with approximately 61.7 percent, according to Dr. Sally Chou, the district’s chief academic officer.
McKinley previously won the award in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.
The district receives about $900,000 in Title I funding, which is divided among the schools based on need.
The money helps pay for reading specialists and other resources that can help the students with state testing preparations.
Officials with Edison are also planning on applying for the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which is one of the highest honors for K-12 institutions.
“Not only are we increasing the achievement for all students, but we’re narrowing the achievement gap,” Orum said. “The thing that pleases us the most is all of our children are making progress.”