Hillendale Elementary School ranked number one in state

A national Web site, schooldigger.com, has ranked Hillendale Elementary School the number one elementary school in the state of Pennsylvania. Hillendale ranked number one among more than 1,600 other elementary schools in the state.

The site is designed for prospective homebuyers who want to know about the schools and school districts in areas where they might buy homes. It makes its state based assessment on several factors. It uses the results of standardized testing in math and reading, along with student to teacher ratio, said Hillendale Principal Steve Dissinger.

Schooldigger.com looks at each level, elementary, middle and high school and makes it’s assessment for each level, choosing the best in each state.

While it’s not an academic award, Dissinger is pleased with the designation. It means he, the faculty and the school district as a whole are doing something right. Two other schools, Chadds Ford and Pocopson elementary, have been named Blue Ribbon Schools in recent years.

“It’s about meeting the kids where they are and providing what they need,” he said. “What this says about Hillendale is that what we’re doing is helping kids grow. They are growing and they are achieving. It makes us feel really good about getting this recognition.”

“Everybody cares about every kid in the district,” he added. “In all of our schools, we have a very diverse group of kids, kids that have a variety of learning disabilities and maybe some other special needs, and we have kids that are working well above their grade level.”

He said it’s not just the teaching professionals who are involved, but the parents as well. As he said, “They keep us accountable to make sure that their kids are getting the absolute best education that they possibly can.”

Because of the nature of the assessment, Dissinger said there’s nothing special the school had to do to prepare.

“We’re not about rankings. We focus on achievement, that’s what our goal is. That’s what we do, that’s what we do well, that’s what we focus all of our energy on,” he said.

Dissinger said he and the faculty at Hillendale look at a lot of different data on the students — such as basic testing, monthly assessments and diagnostic tests — and make adjustments to better educate and meet the students’ needs.

“We look at a whole variety of data. We look at it constantly…We analyze it. We use that data to determine where our relative areas of weakness are, and where our strengths are, and then we develop action plans to address those areas,” Dissinger said.

The designation was announced publicly during the Oct. 22 Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting, but Dissinger said he found out earlier in the month. He wasn’t notified by the site. Rather he learned about it from his wife, a teacher in Lancaster County, who learned about it from a coworker who lives in Avondale.

The recognition was not lost on the higher ups in the district.

“We are thrilled,” said Unionville-Chadds Ford School Superintendent John Sanville.  He sees the ranking of Hillendale as continued good work by everyone in the district, from student to parent to teacher to bus driver.

“Sustained excellence is a matter of the hard work of lots of people, starting with the students. We could not be more thrilled with the success of our students…It’s really a reflection of our community.”

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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