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Rosedale Colony named to nationally distinguished list

Rosedale School staff members from left, Becky Anderson, Angie Goldhammer, Patti Kelly and Marilyn Bernard pose for a photo in the Rosedale School classroom. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 2
The Rosedale Colony School was named one of 100 National ESEA Distinguished Schools in the country for this year. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 2

The Rosedale Colony School, which educates members of the Rosedale Hutterite Colony near Mitchell, was recently named as one of the country's 100 National ESEA Distinguished Schools for 2018.

The recognition means that the Rosedale Colony School is one of the top Title I, or low-income, schools in South Dakota and in the country. However, according to Betsy Chapman, who works in the South Dakota Department of Education's Division of Educational Services and Support, Rosedale Colony students' test scores were among the top in the state overall — not just among Title I schools.

"I think it makes us feel as if we are on the right track and that the things that we are doing are making a difference," teacher Becky Anderson said. "It definitely is an honor."

Since 1996, distinguished schools have been selected by the National Association of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) State Program Administrators, formerly known as the National Title I Association. Schools are chosen by their state education agency.

To qualify, a school must fit into one of three categories: exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years (as measured by standardized testing scores), closing the achievement gap between student groups and excellence in serving special populations of students.

The Rosedale Colony School, in which 25 students are currently enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade, was nominated in the exceptional student performance category, but also qualified in the special populations category. That's because Rosedale Colony students don't come into the school speaking English as a primary language, designating them "English language learners."

Anderson said the students enter kindergarten primarily only knowing the Hutterite language, which is German-based, and speaking very limited English.

"This is a huge success as many of our schools with English learner students struggle to make such great student achievement numbers," Chapman wrote in an email to The Daily Republic.

Anderson herself, a former special education teacher who taught in Doland's Hillside Colony district for seven years and is now in her eighth year at the Rosedale Colony School, has picked up some words in the language during her years of teaching in colony schools, but does not speak it fluently.

"It's quite a challenge. With those kindergarteners, I have to rely on a lot of my older students to kind of help bridge that language gap for us," Anderson said.

Also working at the Rosedale Colony School are Title I teacher Marilyn Bernard, paraprofessional educators Angie Goldhammer and Patti Kelly and a German teacher.

"I believe it's a team effort out here. The parents and the students and the staff, we all work together. We do what we do, and it's hard to do what we do without everyone doing their own part," Anderson said.

When she asked her students why they thought their school had been named a National ESEA Distinguished School, Anderson said they told her that in addition to having a set daily routine — students go to "German school" for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening and spend the majority of the day in "English school," where they learn English and have a curriculum similar to that of the rest of the Mitchell School District — they thought Anderson's expectations helped them succeed.

"I have high expectations, and I always want them to try their best," Anderson said.

One student said they thought the new English and language arts curriculum provided by the Mitchell School District had been helpful. Anderson said the curriculum has made her students better writers, as evaluation focuses more on writing than on multiple choice and short-answer questions.

The school also implements Reading Recovery, a national program for first-graders who struggle with literacy.

A maximum of two schools per state can be selected as National ESEA Distinguished Schools each year. The other South Dakota school selected this year was Vandenberg Elementary School, located in Box Elder. That school qualified for closing the achievement gap among student groups, and Chapman said this is the first year the state has had the growth data needed to nominate a school in that category.

The Rosedale Colony School and the rest of the country's distinguished schools will be honored at a reception in Kansas City, Missouri, on Jan. 31.

"It really is a testament to the community and to the teachers and the faculty down at Rosedale ... It's quite an honor; a very significant one, and we're just pleased as punch," Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves said.