Coffeen Elementary Named State Blue Ribbon School

Scott Stults, Sheridan County School District 2 director of elementary education. (Photo by Pat Blair)

Coffeen Elementary School is a 2013 Wyoming Blue Ribbon School based on significant achievements by its students in statewide tests administered under the federal Leave No Child Behind Program. Scott Stults, Sheridan County School District 2 director of elementary education, said the school will be recognized by Wyoming's Department of Education at 9 Wednesday morning (Oct. 2) and by the U.S. Department of Education in ceremonies on Nov. 18 and 19 in Washington D.C.

The elementary education director credited the leadership of Coffeen's Principal Nikki Trahan (TRAY-han), a tremendous staff and teachers and the support of parents for turning the school from a place where no parent wanted to send a child to this week's award winner. Referring to Trahan (TRAY-han) and her staff, Stults said, “They have donr remarkable work. They really have.”

The Blue Ribbon award is the third presented to a school in District 2, which includes the city of Sheridan and Story Elementary. Past award winners are Sagebrush in 2009 and Meadowlark in 2012. Stults said District 2 is the only district in the state to receive the honor three times.

The award is based on last year's Proficiency Assessments of Wyoming Students – also known as PAWS – which tests students in grades 3 through 8 in the areas of reading, writing and math. Coffeen students in all three grades showed significant improvements in all three areas from scores in the tests administered in 2007.

Stults said the scores reflect a “total turnaround” in academic performance. He said when he first joined District 2, five years ago, parents in the Coffeen school area were calling the school administrative offices and asking that their children be allowed to attend other schools. He added this past summer, parents were calling to ask that their children be allowed to attend Coffeen.

A comparison of test scores in 2007 with the most recent PAWS tests shows how students have improved (percentages are of students who rated “proficient” or better):

Grade 3

Reading – 2007, 53 percent; 2013, 92 percent.

Writing – 2007, 12 percent; 2011 (the last date this test was administered), 88 percent.

Math – 2007, 88 percent; 2013, 100 percent.

Grade 4

Reading – 2007, 62 percent; 2012 (the last date the test was administered), 85 percent.

Writing – 2007, 41 percent; 2011, 80 percent.

Math – 2007, 91 percent; 2013, 97 percent.

Grade 5

Reading – 2007, 55 percent; 2012, 80 percent.

Writing – 2007, 11 percent; 2011, 94 percent.

Math – 2007, 91 percent; 2013, 97 percent.

Stults said, “We have turned the tide – from basic to below basic (in 2007) to now nearly all students being proficient. The biggest factor is predominately the quality of teachers in the classroom.”

An outgrowth of the adult leadership at the school has been the school's Leader in Me program that gives students a chance to be leaders as well. Students can take on responsibilities in such areas as door greeters, office assistants and cafeteria assistants, Stults said. He said the school's principal reports a drop in students sent to the office, from 111 in 2008 to only 33 last year, and she attributes that directly to the Leader in Me program.

Stults said it's an opportunity for the students to “buy into” their school and develop pride both in their school and in themselves.

By next year, Coffeen Elementary students will be attending classes in a new building. The old school on Sheridan Avenue was demolished last spring, and construction started on a new facility on that site. The new school is expected to be open for classes in August. In the meantime, Coffeen school has been holding classes in the old Highland Park School buildings off Highland Avenue.