Curtis Middle School in Wichita is one of two schools in Kansas to receive the title of National Distinguished Title 1 School, school officials announced Thursday.
The award is based on outstanding performance toward closing the achievement gap between low- and high-performing students on state assessment scores over the past four years.
Nearly 94 percent of students at Curtis, near Lincoln and Edgemoor in southeast Wichita, qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a federal indicator of poverty.
“Our kids need the recognition,” said Stephanie Wasko, principal at Curtis. “We’re not in the most affluent area of Wichita. Our kids … don’t have a lot of money.
“I think it’s important for them to realize that we’re going to give them the same opportunity as any school in this city. I want them to go to college if that’s what they choose. I want them to be able to have a career if that’s what they choose. I want to make sure that when they leave my doors, that every door to them is still open.”
District officials announced the honor during a surprise assembly at the school Thursday afternoon. The Southeast High School pep band played as students filed into the auditorium, and Bill Faflick, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, congratulated students and staff for their hard work.
“What a remarkable achievement that is,” Faflick said. “That means every student at Curtis has the opportunity … to learn, to gain a great education, to be prepared for opportunities that are going to come their way.”
The school plans to hang a “National Distinguished Title 1 School” banner, and families attending parent-teacher conferences later this month will get bumper stickers that note the accomplishment.
An elementary school in Hays also was honored.