Another shining moment in Camelot


The Mirror

Camelot Elementary School students and staff are among the few across the nation known for superior academic achievement.

Last Thursday morning, the Federal Way school was formally recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Camelot is doubly unusual in that it’s one of the few schools that can brag it has two Blue Ribbons. It was awarded its first one in 1997.

This year, the school was recognized for students making dramatic improvement on the reading and math portions of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) while at least 40 percent of the students are from low-income families.

Paul Marquardt, Camelot’s principal, said teachers worked for several weeks last year putting the Blue Ribbon application to the U.S. together after being nominated by the state superintendent of public instruction.

Washington was allowed to nominate seven schools. All were awarded Blue Ribbons, said Julie Hanson, the state’s teacher awards coordinator. The other winners are in Kirkland, Bothell, Chewelah, Everson (one each) and Vancouver (two).

Hanson said she hasn’t heard of a school in the state ever receiving the award twice.

Nationally, 295 schools were recognized by the federal government. Seven weren’t operating last week because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Federal Way Public Schools officials learned last Wednesday that Camelot was receiving the award again. A hastily called assembly was held for the students Thursday. Marquardt worked the school’s theme for this year –– stars –– into his remarks.

“Here at Camelot, we have 266 stars sitting here and about 40 stars sitting around the room,” he said, pointing to students and teachers.

Donna Foxley, representing Region 10 of the federal education department, presented the award. “You need to be proud of yourselves,” she told the students.

Indeed, they were clapping and yelling when she announced Camelot was a Blue Ribbon school.

Under the Bush Administration, the criteria for a Blue Ribbon school has focused on the results of state assessment tests and whether schools are making adequately yearly progress, a measurement used in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Camelot doesn’t have the highest WASL scores in the Federal Way district, but what it does have is a big improvement in reading and writing from year to year, considering many students are in the free or reduced-price lunch program –– a low-income indicator generally regarded as a sign they will struggle academically.

In 2003, more than 56 percent of fourth-grade students at the school met or exceeded the state’s WASL standard for reading.

In 2004, that jumped to 71.4 percent.

In reading in 2003, 85.4 percent of Camelot students met the standard, and in 2004 that climbed to 91.8 percent, according to district officials.

The school did see its WASL scores drop in 2005 –– 84.9 percent in reading and 64.2 percent in writing. Those are higher, however, than the district as a whole.

Teachers at Camelot attribute to the success to the community fostered at the school. Teachers aren’t afraid to collaborate on curriculum and across subjects, Marquardt said. Also, parents volunteer in classes, he added.

Most students live near the school and walk to it, said Cathy Boyd, Camelot’s secretary. As a result, there is a “family feel” to the school.

The staff is also a close group, she said.

Foxley credited the school’s staff for helping students and welcoming parents. It showed in “an ‘us, we’ mentality” in Camelot’s application, she said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday:, 925-5565

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