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Shaler Area primary schools earn distinguished recognition

| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Federal Programs, has named Jeffery and Reserve Primary Schools Title I Distinguished Schools for the 2016-17 school year.

The department is recognizing the Shaler Area schools' high achievement because the institutions met required objectives and students scored within the top 5 percent for English language arts and math on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) test. Jeffery and Reserve are two of 123 Pennsylvania Title I schools to receive the honor for this school year.

Shaler Area schools have earned Title I Distinguished School titles the past three out of four years.

“We are so proud of the academic advancements made in our schools, and to receive the Title I Distinguished Schools distinction again for two of our primary schools speaks to the hard work of our students and dedication of our staff,” Superintendent Sean Aiken said in a written statement.

The federally funded Title I program provides educational opportunities to help students meet the state's standards in reading, language arts and math.

Reserve Primary Principal Eloise Milligan said she was particularly “ecstatic” to learn about the distinction.

“We've made a lot of school improvement procedures — we've tweaked our program to meet their (students') needs and used data to meet their needs more intensely — so to see all of that coming together as a team effort from the teachers, from myself and then working with the parents, it is just a phenomenal experience.”

Shaler Area's Title I program focuses on first- through third-graders who receive below-average scores on annual literacy exams. The Title I teachers work in conjunction with classroom teachers on developing lessons they can both teach, Milligan said. The Title I teacher then may work with her students in small groups within the classroom while the classroom teacher works with other students. Another option is for the Title I teacher to remove the student from class for 30 minutes of specialized skill development.

Melissa Jones and Heather DeAngelo serve as Jeffery's Title I teachers; Elizabeth Reis and Loretta Schmidt are Reserve's. Milligan attributes a number of factors to Shaler Area's successful program.

“We target a population of students in grades 1, 2 and 3, where you really can make the difference when it comes to reading achievement,” Milligan said. “If you wait, you've missed that opportunity because all the research shows that you need to have research comprehension, fluency, writing skills and phonemic awareness in check before they hit third grade, in order for them to have success as successful readers and writers for their career.”

Moreover, she holds regular meetings to analyze program data with classroom, Title I and special education teachers. They use their findings to “tweak the instruction to meet the needs of the students in that classroom,” she said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Federal Programs, will honor Jeffery and Reserve Primary Schools at the 2018 Pennsylvania Title I Improving School Performance Conference Jan. 28 through 31 at the Sheraton Station Square, on Pittsburgh's South Side.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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