Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday speaks with kindergarten teacher Bridget Murphy at Ezel Elementary School (Morgan County) Oct. 25, 2010. Photo by Amy Wallot

Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday speaks with kindergarten teacher Bridget Murphy at Ezel Elementary School (Morgan County) Oct. 25, 2010. Photo by Amy Wallot

By Susan Riddell

Deatrah Barnett’s question seemed simple enough. And yet, Ezel Elementary School’s (Morgan County) Principal Carol Rose still can’t come up with an answer.

“I just don’t know,” Rose replied when the Morgan County school district superintendent posed the question recently and again when given a second chance to answer later.

The question? What makes Ezel Elementary different from other schools?

Rose said she gets asked this question a lot, but she can’t offer an honest answer because she isn’t familiar enough with other schools. “One would have to compare the curriculum, staff, instructional time, teaching strategies, culture and programs that are in place for intervention,” she said.

Her preferred question to answer is “What is Ezel Elementary doing to ensure success of students?”

“There is an expectation that we want our students to be successful, and nothing other than their best is what is required both from students and staff,” said Rose, who taught at the school for eight years and is in her 10th year as the school’s principal. “High expectation and focused instruction are what drive Ezel Elementary.”

That drive has taken Ezel Elementary to a 2010 U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School honor. The tiny eastern Kentucky school of 175 students also is one that doesn’t allow its students to fall into the cliché of poverty-stricken, uneducated children.

“We may not know it all, but we can learn it,” Barnett said.

Fifth-grade teacher Amy Hampton said Ezel Elementary refuses to allow challenges to hold the school back.

“Our accomplishments over the past 10 years are points of pride for the community,” Hampton said. “Being a high-performing school is like being successful in anything else: you have to work hard, be dedicated and be willing to put forth the extra effort.

“We don’t see the many adversities the students face as an excuse for them not to be able to succeed, but see the school as an outlet for a way for them to get ahead,” Hampton added. “It doesn’t matter what walk of life these children come from. They are all intelligent, teachable kids in our eyes, and we hold each one to the highest expectation possible.”

Ezel Elementary, also a high-performing school under the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, reached proficiency in 2004 and has never looked back, according to Rose.

“There’s no downtime here,” Rose said. “We’re very strategic in our focus. We focus on the standards, and we change as they do. We’re flexible with student needs and intervention, but we make sure our personal relationships are built and are strong.”

Kimberly Hampton teaches 3rd grade at Ezel Elementary and is in her seventh year at the school. She said Thoughtful Classroom activities are used daily.

“Foldables, flap books, organizers, posters and more are used to promote vocabulary development and deepen understanding of content knowledge for our students,” Kimberly Hampton said. “Within my classroom, I have found those activities related to vocabulary development and summarization of content knowledge to be effective in developing students’ thinking, learning and study skills.”

Amy Hampton, the 5th-grade teacher who is in her eighth year at the school, agreed that Thoughtful Classroom activities have been critical to her students’ success.

“My students keep subject notebooks that have vocabulary words with their definitions and a picture related to the content being studied,” Amy Hampton said. “Students use graphic organizers to identify the main idea and supporting details of various subject areas. Students are given assignments and tasks in different learning styles by using Thoughtful Classroom ideas related to task rotation.”

Kimberly Hampton said the school’s 15:1 student-to-teacher ratio provides the opportunity for close monitoring of progress not just with Thoughtful Classroom elements, but in all forms of learning and testing.

“We monitor student learning and progress through a variety of ways including universal screenings, reading/writing connections, and formative and summative assessments,” Hampton said. “We provide scaffolded instruction, teach to mastery of concepts and give timely feedback to our students. We also provide clear learning goals for our students with differentiated instruction that addresses various learning styles within our curriculum.”

“The staff at every school in the nation has the best intentions,” Rose added. “What matters most with my staff is when kids walk through these doors, every kid gets the best possible education. What we’re all about is student success.”

Carol Rose,, (606) 725-8201