• Category 1

    Selected in 2021

  • Grades: k - 5
    School Setting: rural
    Town Population: 1,647
    Student Enrollment: 147
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 8%
    White/Caucasian: 88%
    Hispanic: 1%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 3%
    Native American: 0%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:16
    % Reduced Lunch: 54%
    % ELL Learners: 0%
    Founded: 1929
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Andrew Bliss
  • CONTACT:
    1114 Schooldays Road
    Big Island, VA 24526
    434-299-5863
    abliss@bedford.k12.va.us
Big Island Elementary School
Big Island, VA
“Our partnerships help us meet all student needs, not just academic ones."
"
1. Tell us about your school’s success.
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Big Island Elementary School was at a crossroads. It was not accredited and was in danger of triggering “state oversight” requirements if it failed to meet accreditation guidelines the following year. Enrollment was down to 120 students from nearly 250 a few years earlier and disciplinary incidents, while still not a major issue, were on the rise.
Since then BIES has made remarkable strides. Our most recent scores for accreditation (2018-2019) were in the high 80’s and 90’s (in all subjects), which was quite a contrast to the 20’s and 50’s it had scored in 2013-2014 school year. During the last 7 years we have consistently performed above state and division averages in math and reading, with last years math scores 20 points above both. Enrollment is up 25% to 150 students and has been climbing steadily since 13-14, and last year there were only 8 recorded incidents the entire school year, none of which resulted in a student being suspended.

2. Talk about the greatest contributing factor(s) that promoted positive change in your school.
Community partnerships are one factor that has led to positive change in our school. Our partnerships help us meet all the needs of our students, not just academic ones. We have a backpack program to feed the hungry, a secret shepherd program to provide new clothing, and churches that donate supplies. To meet student SEL needs we have a mental health support team, a family DSS worker for school and family support, and a yearly mentoring program that pairs struggling students with a staff mentor.
Additionally, we have staff that are more student centered, empathetic to their needs, and more proficient than we did 7 years ago. In a school where there is often only one teacher per grade level, this cannot be understated. These changes, along with students knowing they are valued by their entire community, have led to increased achievement as students are more likely to be well cared for, living in more positive environments, and connected to the school through strong relationships.
3. How has ESEA funding supported the school's success?
ESEA funding has supported BIES' success by funding staff positions, allowing the principal to hire a second reading specialist and an additional paraprofessional to support struggling readers. The funding also provided teachers the opportunity to attend high quality professional development, such as regional conferences on utilizing technology in the classroom, state reading conferences, and literacy or math coursework through local universities.
In addition, it helps fund remediation programs for students and supports curriculum based family nights. Each class has a daily 40 minute block of time to utilize remediation programs such as Moby Max, Math Facts Pro, Reading A-Z, IXL, E-Spark, and Education Galaxy. Quarterly family curriculum nights include dinner provided by the school and host a range of activities for children and their parents. These have proven very popular with families and prior to the pandemic over 150-200 people would attend each event.
4. What professional development activities were used to improve teaching and learning?
BIES maintains a rigorous offering of professional development activities. We strive to personalize PD offerings alongside the required DOE and BCPS trainings. The Leadership Team examines student performance data to find areas in need of improvement. They then discuss the best practices needed to close those gaps and plan school based PD accordingly. Teachers also meet individually, or in small groups with the principal to come up with specific PD’s that they feel improve their professional skills. These opportunities include but are not limited to: conferences (Responsive Classroom, Really Great Reading, Orton Gillingham), graduate classes, online modules (Google Certified Educator, Canvas LMS), book studies, or technology/virtual based learning (IXL, HMH). By allowing staff members to choose PD’s that align with their needs/interests their level of engagement is higher and they are more apt to utilize the skills learned in their professional practice on a regular basis.
5. Talk about the cultural shift leading up to your school's success.
In our school, many things have led to a positive cultural shift. Through surveys, and the principal’s open door policy, staff has a voice in planning for school improvement and events. Teachers meet weekly to discuss strengths and weaknesses in instruction and school climate. Students are also given a voice through surveys. With the use of Responsive Classroom techniques students grow comfortable with sharing and respecting each other with daily class meetings.
Our school also focused on increasing family involvement in student academics, with parent surveys and the 21st Century Grant Program. This program provided after school programming, with sessions ending with a Show and Tell Assembly for parents to see their student’s final products. This program, partnered with our Title I and non-profit family programs, also gave our school opportunities to build positive relationships with our students’ families through Family Nights focused on academics and good parenting concepts.
6. How has community involvement strengthened your success?
From 2011-2017, BIES received a 21st Century CLC Grant that provided extracurricular activities for students and fostered multiple partnerships in the community, including the Bedford YMCA, the National D-Day Memorial, Bower Center for the Arts, The Sedalia Center, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Claytor Nature Center, Horizon Behavioral Health and Family Alliance/Humankind. Our PTA helps build relationships with our parents by utilizing these partners for Title I Family Nights focused on literacy, STEAM, Health/Wellness, and Internet Safety. Georgia Pacific helps meet student needs through a backpack program that provides extra food for families on weekends and holidays. The Big Island Library provides weekly support to our school by hosting each class, offering programs promoting literacy and providing community internet access. Randolph College provides student interns for summer school, allowing us to have smaller student-teacher ratios and students more hands-on activities.
Stats
  • Category 1

    Selected in 2021

  • Grades: k - 5
    School Setting: rural
    Town Population: 1,647
    Student Enrollment: 147
    Student Demographics:

    Black/African American: 8%
    White/Caucasian: 88%
    Hispanic: 1%
    Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%
    Asian: 3%
    Native American: 0%
    Other: 0%

    Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:16
    % Reduced Lunch: 54%
    % ELL Learners: 0%
    Founded: 1929
  • PRINCIPAL:
    Andrew Bliss
  • CONTACT:
    1114 Schooldays Road
    Big Island, VA 24526
    434-299-5863
    abliss@bedford.k12.va.us