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O'Loughlin honored

There is a pattern developing at O'Loughlin Elementary School in Hays that is appreciated by all involved. Teachers, staff and administrators create an environment in which students can excel, parents get involved, success is achieved, then extra recess or free time is enjoyed by the pupils.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

It is becomming an almost annual ritual for the O'Loughlin Project that began in 1990.

This past week, Principal Nancy Harman assembled the students to celebrate "hard work, good grades and attention to detail." Those attributes led to O'Loughlin receiving the National Title I Distinguished School Award. The Kansas State Department of Education selected the school because of its exceptional performance for two or more consecutive years.

"You are the best school in the state of Kansas," was how Superintendent Dean Katt described the honor.

The award can be squeezed into an already crammed trophy case of academic achievement. Last year, the school celebrated achieving the standard of excellence for 15 consecutive years. It also was named a 2012 Title I Award School in recognition of high academic performance by KSDE. O'Loughlin earned the Governor's Achievement Award in 2007, 2010 and 2011. Redbook Magazine gave it America's Best School Award in 1995. Even the U.S. Department of Education has presented O'Loughlin with its Blue Ribbon Award.

Curriculum at the school utilizes experiences that allow children's brains to make connections. The hands-on approach allows all students to be reached, whether the student is gifted and talented, exceptional, or anywhere in between. When No Child Left Behind was the rage as well as the law of the land, O'Loughlin already was accomplishing it.

With at least 35 percent of the student body eligible for free or reduced lunches, O'Loughlin is a Title 1 school. Six Title I teachers support 175 students in reading and math, with a goal of "helping every child reach their ability," said Mark Hauptman, USD 489 assistant superintendent of special services and Title I director.

The Title 1 teachers, who work with students at all five USD 489 elementaries, offer their services in conjunction with the classroom teacher, often giving direct instruction, and most commonly work one-on-one with students to reinforce what's being taught.

The concept is working as based on the Achievement Performance Index. O'Loughlin Elementary has four straight years of sustained growth, putting it at the top of the KSDE list.

Hauptman said the Distinguished School Award "really is an award for the whole school."

We applaud the efforts of the entire O'Loughlin community. We only can wonder if all the recess breaks earned by all the awards eventually will lead to too little classtime.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net