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The New Mexico Public Education Department selected the Farmington elementary school for the award because it was one of the highest performing schools in the state

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FARMINGTON — Thanks to the efforts of teachers and staff at Northeast Elementary School, the Farmington school has been selected as a National Title I Distinguished School.

The National Title I Association announced the school was selected as one of nearly 100 schools nationwide to be recognized for its exceptional student achievement, according to a press release from the association. Schools with a high percentage of low-income students can qualify to be Title 1 schools, which means they receive additional federal funds.

The New Mexico Public Education Department selected Northeast Elementary, as well as Joe Stanley Smith Elementary School in Carlsbad, for the award. The last San Juan County school selected for the award was Newcomb Elementary School in 2014.

Northeast was chosen for the distinction because it has been one of the highest performing schools in New Mexico over the last two school years, said Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the education department.

He also said Northeast had one of the highest rates in the state for closing the achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students.

Gene Schmidt, superintendent for the Farmington Municipal School District, said the award reflects the work of Principal Candace Young and the school's staff.

He said the school has made a lot of progress in the last five years. Northeast improved its grade — the state education department annually ranks public schools in New Mexico on an A-F scale — from an F in 2011-2012 to an A in 2014-2015. The school also received an A last school year.

Youth said the school’s improved performance was a group effort, saying she could not have done it by herself.

"It was a great compliment the state would select us," she said.

The school was part of a turnaround program offered by the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In 2012, Young participated in a training at the university aimed at helping administrators improve student achievement.

Young said she relied on that training to help her address several areas at the school. Among the changes she has made is improving the school's professional learning communities, which help teachers evaluate students.

Charlotte Mason, a Title 1 teacher, said the school’s intervention program has been totally revamped in recent years. Scheduling changes now allow staff to double the number of students they can include in the program, she said.

Staff also introduced a new element of the intervention program in which students were given books for their parents to read to them at home.

Desiree Edney, a lead teacher, said the program allows teachers to monitor a student’s performance and quickly address areas of concern by taking steps like developing a student assistance plan that is shared with parents.

The support of parents and students was crucial to improving the performance of the school, Young said.

Northeast administrators and teachers will be recognized during the opening ceremonies of the National Title I Association Conference on Feb. 22 in Long Beach, Calif. 

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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