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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 28, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Seattle’s Mercer Middle named School of Distinction for sixth year running

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times 2011.

Corrected version

For the sixth year in a row, Asa Mercer International Middle School in Seattle has earned a spot on a statewide list that applauds schools for sustaining improvements in reading and math.

The highly diverse, high-poverty school has won the School of Distinction award more times than any other school in the state. This year’s list includes 101 schools.

Mercer emerged from declining enrollment and slumping test results to surpass Seattle Public Schools’ average passing rates in math and reading in 2011. At the time, school leaders cited a strong principal, hardworking teachers and the constant use of data to tweak instruction as reasons for the stark improvement. School board leaders hailed the school and said other schools should learn from what Mercer was doing.

Today, that approach is maintaining Mercer’s legacy. Students there passed state tests at rates greater than the district average in all but one area. In sixth-grade reading, 75 percent of students passed, slightly below the district’s average of 80 percent.

Chris Carter, the school’s principal, said Mercer emphasizes consistency among its classes. Teachers in the same grade levels will plan lessons together and dissect what worked and what didn’t after that day’s lessons.

“It’s a fantastic community,” Carter said in an interview this week. “Our students and our families and our staff are really dedicated to doing their best.”

The school invests in extra math classes for struggling students, according to its latest report card from Seattle Public Schools. Low-performing sixth and seventh graders take an extra math class at Mercer. Students whose first language is something other than English — about 17 percent of the school in 2012-13 — take a special course when they struggle with math.

The award — in its eighth year — is presented by several area education groups, including the Association of Washington School Principals, Washington Association of School Administrators and the Washington State School Directors’ Association.

Other Puget Sound area repeat winners who have won the award three or more times include:

  • Catharine Blaine K-8 School in Seattle
  • Hamilton International Middle School in Seattle
  • Martin Sortun Elementary School in Kent
  • Spiritridge Elementary School in Bellevue
  • Jenkins Creek Elementary School in Kent
  • Kent Mountain View Academy in Kent
  • Kirkland Middle School in Kirkland
  • Technology Access Foundation Academy in Federal Way
  • Greenwood Elementary School in Seattle
  • Wing Luke Elementary School in Seattle

A complete list of this year’s winners can be found here.

Correction: This post, originally published at 5 a.m. Nov. 28, was updated at 3:45 p.m. to correct information about Mercer’s test results. The original version described test scores, when the more accurate term is passage rates.

Comments | More in News | Topics: School of Distinction, Seattle Public Schools

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