State Super praises Martin Sortun elementary

 State Superintendent of Public Schools Terry Bergeson (far right) makes a toast Aug. 27 with (left to right) Tina DoRan, Dion Kiene and Fahm Ros, staff of Martin Sortun Elementary. - Charles Cortes/Reporter
State Superintendent of Public Schools Terry Bergeson (far right) makes a toast Aug. 27 with (left to right) Tina DoRan, Dion Kiene and Fahm Ros, staff of Martin Sortun Elementary.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Reporter

By Brian Beckley

Teachers and staff at Martin Sortun Elementary got a surprise during their staff meeting Wednesday when the State Superintendent of Public Instruction showed up to congratulate the faculty on their success with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning test these recent years.

Martin Sortun was one of three schools named by State Superintendent Terry Bergeson Tuesday during a speech highlighting WASL scores around the state.

According to Principal Greg Kroll, the faculty did not know he invited Bergeson to make an appearance during the meeting.

“It was a complete surprise to the staff,” he said.

Kroll said he invited Bergeson to the school because of work the staff has done turning the school from No. 10 on the list of the district's most struggling schools just five years ago, to becoming one of four in the district that made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) on this year's WASL test, as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It also marks the eighth consecutive year of continuous improvement for the school, which last year was named a “School of Distinction,” one of 82 in the state.

Kroll reiterated that making AYP this year was particularly difficult because of a mandated increase in WASL standards, something that tripped up eight elementaries in the Kent district. But at Martin Sortun, the school met even the increased AYP standards in categories that include a high reduced or free lunch, special education students and English language learners, three of the most difficult demographic categories in which to meet standards.

“Some grade levels were getting 10 percent gains,” Kroll said. “That's pretty good, isn't it?”

Kroll credited the turnaround to “a whole menu of items” by the staff, including identification of student needs, positive morale and student engagement.

“I wanted them to be recognized for what they do,” Kroll said of his staff.

“They are an amazing staff,” Kent Superintendent Barbara Grohe said.

Grohe said the recognition from the state's top teacher was especially appreciated.

“For our staff, it was another recognition of the wonderful job they have done,” Grohe said.

According to Kroll, Bergeson praised the staff for meeting the challenges put before them, including across-the-board gains.

“I wanted them to understand the significance of that,” Kroll said.

According to OSPI spokesman Nathan Olson, Martin Sortun was singled out by Bergeson as an example of a school making “tremendous gains” in WASL scores.

Kroll said his staff would continue to try and align their instructional materials to monitor the students not making the grade in order to help get those standards up as well. he said the teachers would be trained in “Progress monitoring” to better give teachers an understanding of how to adapt their methods to student needs.

But Kroll praised his staff for their teamwork and the effort they put in to making sure the school met AYP.

“It's the teachers. It's all about the teachers and the staff,” he said.

“It's all about team,” he added. “It wouldn't happen any other way.

Contact Brian Beckley at 253-872-6600 ext. 5054 or

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