FORT BENTON — Staff and students at Fort Benton Elementary School have reason to celebrate as it was recently named a National ESEA Distinguished School after maintaining the top standardized test scores in the state.
The federal ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) program recognizes students that have successfully used their ESEA Funds to improve the education for all of their students, especially low-income, disadvantaged students.
Fort Benton Public Schools Superintendent Jory Thompson said, "I think it's a very significant accomplishment. I think it's well-deserved and recognizes the hard work that our students and staff and leadership team have put in at Fort Benton Elementary."
Fort Benton Elementary School principal Roxie Benjamin said there are all sorts of people to credit for this accomplishment, ranging from the staff's ability to lead and direct students along the right path, to the dedication and perseverance put in by the students themselves. She also attributes their RTI (Response to Intervention) program as part of their success.
"I think a huge part of the students' success is the RTI program," Roxie said. "We have different substructures put in place here that make sure students are growing and that they receive instruction at their level. I think that's a huge part in making sure students aren't just seen as a whole group, but they're also seen as individuals and receive the most tailored instruction as possible. We have amazing paraprofessionals that help us as well in making sure those interventions are delivered with fidelity and that they are maximizing their instructional time, and that they are supporting our teachers with that to."
Second-grade teacher Jamie Ball said she couldn't be more happy for the students, recognizing their hard work and pride for their school.
Ball said, "We are so proud to be part of this school and school system. It's just an honor to win this award, and it's really meaningful being a stakeholder both as a teacher here for 20 years, and as a parent with multiple kids that have gone through or are going through this school."
The students were asked about this achievement. Through their answers, it was all about having pride in their school as well as support for their teachers as well as everyone who supported them along the way.
Sixth-grader Elijah Miller said, "It's just how our school is. The students are smart, and it's our teachers are teaching us good things. They're good teachers.
Fellow sixth-grader Kara Clark said, "It's a huge honor to get a reward, and I'm proud of the students working super hard and the teachers taking their time out of their day to teach us."
While many standardized testing, is a struggle for many students, teachers and parents, Fort Benton Elementary is one of few that achieved overall high scores, and the highest in the state. Principal, Roxie Benjamin noted the key to running a successful school.
Roxie said, "I think one of the things that helps our school succeed is the fact that our teachers, staff, and paraprofessionals are committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure that students are learning and growing. Covid was a challenge, but I think we bonded together, we're willing to have tough conversations to make sure students are receiving what they need. We're also thankful for our parent and community support as well. They really helped make sure that the Longhorn way, the established way of excellence and achievement continues into the future no matter what happens.
Superintendent Thompson added that they aim to continue this upward trend, noting that the Longhorn pride runs rampant through this town and through this school, while also taking into account the leadership role, by saying the best work leads to good results.
Staff will represent Fort Benton Elementary School and the State of Montana at the National ESEA Conference in Indianapolis in early February.
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