Photo: Sgt. Bluff-Luton High School staff members (left to right): Justin Smith, Ken Friedmann, Jen Hazel, Paul Zahner and Jason Klingensmith.

The Iowa State Board of Education recently recognized Sgt. Bluff-Luton High School for its efforts to help underperforming students succeed. These students are typically from households whose native language is not English, and/or they are living in low socio-economic settings. Schools that succeed by closing the educational gap between high and low performing students are honored with a Breaking Barriers to Teaching and Learning Award. 

Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School was specifically recognized for its work with students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. That group at Sergeant Bluff-Luton is thriving, as 94 percent are proficient in reading and math, compared to 68 percent statewide.

Jason Klingensmith, principal at Sgt. Bluff-Luton High School, said the district is growing and becoming more diverse; yet, the expectation from educators is the same: All students will learn. He explained that the focus comes from a strong building leadership team moving them forward towards their mission, as well as fostering learning that ensures student achievement.  

“We try to use anecdotal, observed and statistical data of several kinds to choose our direction” said Klingensmith. “Currently, our initiatives are focused on students’ conceptual understanding and literacy; collaborative learning; mentoring and executive functions interventions; and school climate/expectations.”

The school has adopted the acronym Warrior P.O.W.E.R. (Positive-Ownership-Well Prepared-Engaged-Responsible) to foster a strong community for achievement. P.O.W.E.R. and other evidence-based Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports (PBIS) efforts played a role in improving academic and behavioral outcomes at Sgt. Bluff-Luton.

“We are currently in our third year implementing the PBIS structures at SB-L High School,” Klingensmith stated. “The AEA has provided—and continues to provide—many opportunities for our teams to work collaboratively creating the capacity needed within the team to unroll the PBIS structure to the staff. The trainings focused our teams in creating a system that best fit SB-L High School.”

Northwest AEA supported the building’s efforts for implementing the Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) framework in 2010. Northwest AEA instructional coaches have led the professional development workshops for the AIW anchor team since its inception.

“Northwest AEA's continued support allowed our building to build capacity within our staff in regards to the fidelity of the AIW framework,” said Klingensmith. “Without Northwest AEA seeing the positive investment to AIW, it would have been very difficult to sustain the framework within our building for the past eight years.”

The collaborative working relationship between Northwest AEA and Sgt. Bluff-Luton has produced award-winning results; but, more importantly, students are finding academic success because a dedicated group of educators are leading the way!