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Milltown Elementary School students and staff, including Principal Tami Geltmaker, foreground, celebrate being named a Four-Star School by the Indiana Department of Education during a ceremony Monday, May 5. (Photos by Alan Stewart)

4-star Milltown shining bright

May 14, 2008
Off the heels of winning the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Award a couple of years ago, Milltown Elementary School celebrated another milestone achievement last week after being named a Four-Star School by the Indiana Department of Education.

Whereas the Blue Ribbon program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their states or demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement, the Four Star program recognizes schools that have demonstrated academic excellence (by placing in the state upper quartile), high student attendance rates and mathematics and language arts proficiency scores.

Flanked by Crawford County Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge, MES second-grader Sageland Fell reads a story she wrote describing why MES is a great school.
Schools must meet all legal standards and also make Annual Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind for a particular year.

Receiving a Four Star Award is an honor which the state recognizes by issuing an award certificate suitable for framing and display in a school.

In the past, MES had been painfully close to winning the accolade. Language and math scores weren't the problem, instead it was attendance. In 2006, Milltown's attendance was 97.05 percent, which was enough to gain the Four Star Award.

In the classroom, the cutoff scores for both English-language arts and mathematics was 56, with Milltown reaching 58 and 61, respectively. The percentage of students who passed both tests was 79 percent, with 75 percent being the cutoff. The attendance rate cutoff was 0.9687, and Milltown turned in an effort of 0.9705.

On Monday, May 4, students and faculty at MES gathered in the gymnasium for a celebratory ceremony honoring everyone involved with the achievement.

During her opening remarks, Principal Tami Geltmaker welcomed everyone to what she described as "an absolutely wonderful morning."

Ruby Deaton, a former staff member at MES who is now part of the special education co-op, was the keynote speaker.

"When I started teaching at Milltown Elementary, it was already a great school with great teachers who did great things in the classroom, but in 1990 the state mandated that we produce a school improvement plan. How were we going to make our school better than it was?" Deaton asked.

The answer, Deaton said, was in the process by which the teachers presented their lessons.

"We had great teachers at every level but not great instruction at every level. We needed every teacher to know what needed to be taught at every grade level and know what they taught had an effect on what was taught at the next grade level," Deaton said. "Teachers began teaching with the next grade level in mind."

When discussing addition, one class might use "plus" and another "add," or the other way around, and one class may have used "subtract" and another "take away," she explained. Deaton said consistent language was to be used to alleviate any confusion on the part of students.

There was also an upgrade in geography tools.

"We had some maps in the upper grades that were 20 years old, and in the lower grade levels we have had maps that were maybe 50 years old, so the PTO and parents helped us acquire new maps and globes," Deaton said.

"We established a vision: What do you want to be? And at Milltown we want nothing but the best. Reaching Four Star was challenging, but challenges are opportunities to grow," Crawford County Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said.

Other honored guests included Bonita Embry Coots, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Crawford County, and Maxine Standiford Redding, chair of the board of directors of the CFCC, which was instrumental in helping launch full-time kindergarten in Crawford County. Crawford County Commissioner Larry Bye and Crawford County School Board President Debbie Kaiser were also on hand.

Second-grade students Sageland Fell and Jessica Collins read items they wrote describing why Milltown Elementary is a good school, and fifth-grade student Zoren Parker performed a rousing rendition of Lee Greenwood's hit, "God Bless The U.S.A."

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