Quilcene School students march in a local parade. (Quilcene School)

Quilcene School wins award for its inclusive policies

Only 20 schools in the country received the distinction from the National Education Policy Center of University of Colorado.

QUILCENE — Quilcene School is one of 20 schools across the nation — and the only one on the North Olympic Peninsula — recognized this year as a School of Opportunity, a designation by the National Education Policy Center of University of Colorado for schools that have excelled at creating learning opportunities for all students.

Quilcene School Principal Gary Stebbins, known as Dr. G to some, found the application for the award and — with the help of teachers and faculty — submitted the extensive application.

“I started reading about it and saw that we were doing a lot of the things described in the application,” Stebbins said.

“The process of applying for this is a great activity for self-reflection and I liked that it was a way to judge schools that wasn’t based on test scores.”

After the application was reviewed by teams of researchers, teachers, policy makers and administrators who judged the school on its curriculum, culture, response to student needs and teacher support, Quilcene was one of 12 schools awarded a silver designation.

Eight received gold designations.

“Quilcene’s strong commitments to inclusion and access for all students particularly stood out to the national team of reviewers,” said Carol Burris, Schools of Opportunity project co-director.

Forty-seven percent of the K-12 school’s 285 students are economically disadvantaged, according to the National Education Policy Center.

“Innovative discipline approaches and a focus on providing all students access to the full curriculum — including those receiving special education services — have earned Quilcene a Silver School of Opportunity designation,” the agency said.

“We’ve done a lot to make our school culture and climate very positive,” Stebbins said. “We’re committed to using a fully inclusive model.”

When it comes to discipline, this means students are rarely given out-of-school suspension — which only serves to take them out of the classroom, Stebbins said.

Other inclusive practices are to have students with disabilities attend classes just like every other student rather then being separated into special education classrooms.

“We have to train our teachers for this but we think it’s important to be inclusive,” Stebbins said.

Quilcene also has a high number of students participating in activities. According to Stebbins, out of 80 high school students, 50 are athletes.

The school also has implemented a new program called the Apollo program, which allows students a selection of activities to participate in in the middle of the day as a break from the classroom.

“You have to connect before you connect,” Stebbins said. “We know who our kids are and we have systems in place to help our students and their families.”

The silver and gold designations are based on principles in the book, “Closing the Opportunity Gap,” co-edited by Kevin Weinner, co-director of the Schools of Opportunity project.

Stebbins said he is proud of his school and is glad it is being recognized for all the hard work on the part of teachers and faculty.

“Test scores can often be a measure of affluence,” Stebbins said. “Not that we don’t take our scores into account, but it’s good to see the state focus on other aspects of education.”

For more information about Quilcene School, see http://www.quilcene.wednet.edu/.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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