Students and staff at Phantom Lake and Stevenson elementary schools are getting noticed for their hard work and student growth in math and English language arts.

Both schools were among 90 schools across Washington that were named 2015 Schools of Distinction by The Center for Educational Effectiveness.

Schools that receive this designation are in the top five percent in improvement statewide, and elementary schools are particularly recognized for sustained improvement in English language arts and math over five years. Both schools are receiving the award for the first time this year.

Phantom Lake Boasts Interventions and Differentiating Instruction are Keys to Success

Phantom Lake Geometry Project

Phantom Lake has worked to improve reading and math in a variety of ways, but principal Erin King credits two major shifts for their success: differentiating instruction and delivering intervention services for reading, language and math in the classroom.

Math and reading at Phantom Lake is being taught in a very systematic and differentiated way, said second grade teacher, Chelle Swim.  Both subjects are taught in small groups, allowing teachers to easily modify or adapt their lessons based on the needs of the small group, she said.

Phantom Lake Student and Parent

Adding onto King’s sentiment about the importance of interventionists, “We have a fantastic support staff and interventionists that are targeting students based on need, and also work with teachers and volunteers to create supplemental materials to be used in the classroom,” said Swim.

In addition to these shifts, the school has increased community engagement, which they believe also contributes to reading and math improvements.  They instituted the Third Thursday program, a monthly morning where parents are invited into the classroom to learn a new math strategy, play a math game, learn how to complete a reading response, and more.

“Parents are working directly with their student and have the guidance of the classroom teacher,” said Swim.  “It really helps create a partnership with families and allows them to learn right alongside their child.”

Collaboration Helps Stevenson Students Thrive

Stevenson Students Working Together

At Stevenson the staff credits collaboration schoolwide and utilizing student performance data in helping students make significant gains in English language arts and math.

“Teachers and staff have built a community around learning together and looking at student and teacher work,” said Stevenson teacher Cathy Elder.

One specific area of collaboration has been professional development with staff sharing their learning with one another to build on each other’s strengths, knowledge, and experience.

In the classroom teachers use student performance data to identify areas where students need extra instruction and support, and utilize small group instruction for reading, writing, and math.


“These small groups have been helpful in giving students access to academic content and allowing them to build their vocabulary,” Bhardwaj said.

Chitra Bhardwaj, who is the English language learning facilitator at Stevenson, said that parent and community involvement has played an important role in student success, and that the school’s Family Connection Center has helped to support students in and outside of school.

Stevenson Principal Chris Scott, who is in his first year at Stevenson this year, said that student success is multifaceted and applauded the dedicated efforts of school staff.

“Student improvement results when teachers set high expectations for students, and they design and deliver rigorous and meaningful instruction necessary to meet those expectations,” Scott said.

Continuing to Grow

“This recognition is an affirmation of the hard work, dedication, and talent that characterizes the Stevenson staff,” Scott said. “It is a symbol of pride for our kids and their parents. It is an acknowledgment of the district’s and the community’s support and of the former administration’s leadership.”

The award recognizes the ongoing work at both schools, and principals Scott and King noted their continuing efforts.

“This award is just the beginning,” said King.  “As a community, we want to continue the good work we have been doing and we also want to continually look for ways to improve.  While we have increased the number of students experiencing success in reading and math, we want all of our students to experience success.  We will continue to research and try new approaches in order to reach every student.”

Being recognized serves as a catalyst for both schools, encouraging ongoing work.

“Having an organization, such as the Center for Educational Excellence recognize our sustained improvements in academic success for students helps to show both our staff and students that their hard work matter and can pay off,” said King.  “This recognition buoys us and helps us to continue our hard work for kids!”

Learn more about School of Distinction awards and The Center for Educational Effectiveness at

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.