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HAMMOND — The Indiana Department of Education has named Donald A. Gavit Middle-High School as this year’s National Title I Distinguished School for Growth and Closing the Achievement Gap.

Gavit Middle-High School was selected for its creative approaches to motivate students, collaboration among middle and high school teachers, and its team atmosphere and mentoring program, according to an Indiana Department of Education news release.

“I think the secret is that the teachers treat kids like their own,” school principal Michelle Ondas said Thursday. “The students and teachers want to be here and the success comes because students know the teachers are invested in them and believe in them.”

The school was selected, in part, for improving test scores, but also for the strong collaboration among teachers, and the establishment of AP course offerings for middle and high school students. 

Since 1996, the National Title I Association has selected examples of superior Title I school programs for national recognition, according to the state department news release.

Selected schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including "team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success, and strong partnerships between the school, parents and the community," according to the release.

Title I Distinguished Schools are selected after thorough review of student achievement data and school accountability performance, as well as student demographic data and an analysis of Title I funding expenditures.

Ondas said Thursday she is “speechless” to hear her school was selected out of the 1,002 Title I schools in the state of Indiana.

Other area top nominees for this year’s Growth and Closing the Achievement Gap award was Columbia Elementary School and Morton Elementary School, both Hammond schools. 

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.