Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 15, 2012

Russell Middle celebrates honor

Mike James
The Independent

RUSSELL — Academic accolades are the norm in Russell schools, but that didn’t diminish the elation Wednesday when Russell Middle School celebrated its latest honor.

Students, teachers and staff filled the gym with cheers and applause during an assembly to mark the school’s new designation: Under the new Kentucky accountability testing system, Russell Middle is a distinguished school based on test scores being in the top 10 percent statewide.

“This means you are the best. You have put the history of Russell and its legacy and tradition of excellence on the map,” Superintendent Susan Compton told students.

Nearly 500 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, most of them dressed in commemorative T-shirts, sent up a thundering cheer. The T-shirts, supplied by community donors, were screen-printed with the message, “We practiced, we tested, we conquered.”

It was a party mood. Teachers showed their dance moves to the raucous appreciation of the students, and then stood back as students busted moves of their own.

In a school where the bar is already set high, Russell students moved it even farther, according to Principal Sean Horne. Horne offered a shout-out to last year’s eighth-graders, who are now freshmen at Russell High, noting their stellar performance on the Explore test, a precursor to the ACT. That group’s composite score was an impressive 16.9.

Newly released Explore scores for this year’s eighth-graders show they did even better, with a composite score of 17, the highest Russell score since the school began administering the test, he said.

Teachers were as elated, perhaps more so, than the students. The recognition was validation for months of hard work in the face of a new and rigorous accountability system, English teacher Carol Digby said.

More than that, it inspires students, she hopes. “We try to instill in them the feeling of success and belonging to something bigger than themselves,” she said.

Faculty, support staff and students did it as a team, she said. “This is a special building. It’s like a family here. It’s our second family.”

Ultimately, the tests and the tributes are secondary to the primary reason for school, she said. “We don’t work here every day for high K-Prep scores, but to teach kids to be productive members of society.”

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.