Henrico, Va., Dec. 1, 2020 — Sandston Elementary School has been selected by the Virginia Department of Education as one of Virginia’s 2020 honorees in the National ESEA Distinguished Schools program. The eastern Henrico County school was honored for its academic achievements and work with special populations of students and their families, including the school’s homeless students, students with disabilities, and English learners. Fewer than 100 schools nationwide garnered the honor in Sandston’s category.
“I’m so very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Kim Powell, Sandston principal, told teachers at a virtual staff meeting Monday. “[Former Henrico Schools director of elementary education] Dr. Rich Hall used to call us ‘the little school that could,’ and now we are a ‘little school that does.’ We are now receiving national recognition, and this is because of your compassion and caring for students. It’s because you push them. You set high goals for them and then you push them to achieve those goals … I am very proud and honored to work with this team.”
The awards program recognizes schools for students’ outstanding academic achievements and highlights efforts to make significant improvements for students.
In its application, Sandston detailed the measures it has implemented in recent years to improve instruction and give students opportunities to succeed. These include intensive staff collaboration and professional development, innovative instructional approaches, after-school activities and outreach to families. From 2016 to 2019, state SOL scores at Sandston rose from an 83.5% to 88.2% pass rate in reading and from a 79.1% to 90.3% pass rate in math. Of the school’s 203 students, 82% are considered economically disadvantaged, 25% receive exceptional education services and 7% are considered homeless under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
“This is an indication of years of dedication and work by the Sandston team,” Amy Cashwell, Henrico County Public Schools superintendent, told the school’s teachers. “I was not surprised when I heard the news because I know the kind of work you do and the tremendous positive impact it has on your students and your community.”
The ESEA awards program is run by the organization of state administrators who implement the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Sandston will be recognized at the group’s virtual national conference in February.
The awards program is divided into three categories (Sandston was honored in Category 3):
- Category 1: Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
- Category 2: Closing achievement gaps among student groups for two or more consecutive years.
- Category 3: Excellence serving special populations of students, such as homeless students, migrant students or English learners.
To be considered, schools must demonstrate high academic achievement for two or more consecutive years and meet their state’s accountability criteria based on two or more consecutive years of achievement data. The awards are for schools with a poverty rate of at least 35 percent. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides federal resources for vulnerable students and grants to states to improve the quality of public education.