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Columbia schools win state award for fifth year in a row

Friday, December 12, 2008 | 6:46 p.m. CST; updated 5:18 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 14, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools' advertised "Tradition of Excellence" continued Friday as it was announced the district was awarded the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's "Distinction in Performance" Award.

It was the fifth consecutive year the district had won the award.

Thirty-five K-12 districts and 10 K-8 districts — or 8 percent of the state's 523 districts — have accomplished the feat of winning the award for five straight years.

"It's great," said Lynn Barnett, the district's assistant superintendent for student support services, in response to the news. "It is great."

Barnett called the award "a very nice recognition for our families and our teachers and the students of this district."

And the fact that the district is receiving it for a fifth time?

It's "absolutely outstanding," she said.

The department doles out the award based on 14 standards. State-mandated Missouri Assessment Program tests, graduation rates, attendance and ACT scores are among the standards.

Columbia Public Schools met all the standards except one, the subgroup achievement, which is based on federal No Child Left Behind requirements, said Sally Beth Lyon, the district's chief academic officer.

More and more school districts in Missouri have won the award in the last few years. This year, Columbia Public Schools was one of 330 in Missouri to win the award, according to a news release from the state education department. The district was one of 294 districts to win it last year; the year before that, 235 districts won.

Never before has the award been given to Columbia Public Schools for five consecutive years. In an interview former superintendent Phyllis Chase gave to the Missourian in August, she said it was one thing she was "very proud" of regarding her tenure.

Lyon acknowledged that Chase's leadership was part of the district's success. She also attributed the achievement to principals, support staff leadership as well as the central office talented teachers and supportive families, she said.

Barnett hopes the winning streak will continue next year, despite increasing standards and fewer resources.

"What we can assure our public is that we as educators, we as teachers, we as administrators are going to make every effort to provide every student the opportunity to learn as best they can," she said. "And that will not change."


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