Kettering principal on national award: ‘We do what’s best for kids’

Kettering’s Indian Riffle Elementary was the only school in the area and one of 16 statewide to be named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School this week.

The program “celebrates school excellence, turn around stories, and closing subgroup achievement gaps,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“I have a truly hard-working, dedicated, caring staff, that does everything they need to do every day to benefit kids,” Indian Riffle Principal Debbie Beiter said Wednesday. “We do what’s best for kids, and that is truly a team effort.”

RELATED: Kettering schools to decide fate of historic building

The 349 schools nationwide named Blue Ribbon schools had to be nominated by their state superintendent, then had to apply to the U.S. Department of Education. Winning schools have to be in the top 15 percent in their state on state reading and math test scores over multiple years, but also in the top 40 percent for how each student subgroup (by race, economics, disability, etc.) performed on those tests.

Indian Riffle — a kindergarten to fifth-grade school located just across Stroop Road from The Greene Town Center — was the only Kettering school to receive an overall “A” on the 2017-18 state report card released last month, as 9 percent of schools statewide received that distinction. The school also received a perfect score for the second straight year on closing academic gaps between those subgroups of students and the student body as a whole.

Beiter said a key to the school’s success is combining twice-a-month data meetings about student progress with a daily intervention period where a flood of staff work with students based on that data.

MORE: Kettering extends superintendent’s contract through 2023

“Every grade level has a scheduled one-hour intervention period daily,” Beiter said. “All of my auxiliary staff goes to that grade level for the period — my Title 1 teachers and aides, the speech teachers, the intervention specialists.”

Students then get targeted small group attention on specific needed skills based on diagnostic screenings and other assessments. Students working above grade level get accelerated work based on their needs.

“Then we decide (at the data meetings), based on progress monitoring of students, do we need to switch an intervention or extend it,” Beiter said. “Those meetings keep us current (on what kids need).”

In addition to gap-closing success, Indian Riffle has improved on pure test performance, with its state performance index on the 120-point scale rising from 99 to 102 to 104 to 106 the past four years. This year’s score ranked Indian Riffle ninth in the core Dayton area, behind three Oakwood schools, two Beavercreek schools, and one each from Waynesville, Springboro and Newton.

MORE: Kettering schools are seeking a levy this year

Schools can only be nominated for the Blue Ribbon award once in a five-year period, and one-third of the public schools nominated must serve a significant number of disadvantaged students. Beiter said 42 percent of Indian Riffle students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Waynesville Elementary was one of nine Ohio Blue Ribbon winners last year, and there were no Dayton-area winners in 2016 or 2015. Other local winners since 2013 include Brookville High School, Newton Elementary and Centerville’s Incarnation Catholic school.

Beiter thanked Indian Riffle families for their continuing support, and Kettering Superintendent Scott Inskeep surprised Indian Riffle staff with the announcement this week.

“We could not be more proud of you,” Inskeep said. “When I come to this school, I see engaged staff members, kids who are on task, and everyone having fun while learning.”

RELATED: School safety panel agrees on counselors, splits on guns

About the Author