Washington Elementary School was named a Blue Ribbon School last week. Shown are Washington teacher Vicki Samuels with students, left to right, (front) Alondra Ayala, Kora Davis, (middle) Genevieve Miranda and (back) Archie Briggs. (Ryan Spoehr photo)

 

By Ryan Spoehr

SLN STAFF

In an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Washington Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2017.

“I’m pretty excited. To just be nominated is a big accomplishment,” Principal Tom Groshinske said. “I’m super excited for our students and staff.”

According to a press release announcing the recognition on Sept. 27, the award acknowledges schools’ overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“I’m most proud of the fact we were awarded this one because it’s all about closing those achievement gaps. What we do is about closing achievement gaps to make sure everyone is remembered. Different kids need different things in education,” Groshinske said.

The release stated that the award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

“It’s an opportunity to say thank you to all the hard work an sacrifice because that work continues,” Groshinske said.

Schools are recognized in one of two performance categories based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates, according to the release. Those are “Exemplary High Performing Schools,” which are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests, and “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.” Those schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the previous five years, according to the release.

Groshinske said that Washington excels at closing student achievement gaps because there is an emphasis in building unity and a positive culture in all of the school’s classrooms.

“We need to build upon staff-student relationships and continue working with parents. We need to keep building a positive experience for everyone and make sure there is a positive environment,” Groshinske said. “You have to have a culture and team-based, positive attitude towards learning.”

DeVos released a statement to all the award-winning schools when the announcement was made, commending them on preparing students for bright futures.

“You are visionaries, innovators and leaders,” DeVos told the honorees. “You have much to teach us. Some of you personalize student learning. Others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools, and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff.”

According to the press release, up to 420 schools nationally may be nominated each year for the Blue Ribbon award. Schools in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands may be nominated for the award. Nominations are also accepted from the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. These awards have been given out for 35 years. There will be a ceremony in Washington D.C. Nov. 6 and 7 honoring the schools that received the award.

“This is a very special day for our students, their families, and our staff,” Groshinske said in the release. “To be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education is amazing.  This award is a testament to our school family’s energy and dedication in building a school culture that embraces all students and helps them achieve success.”

 
 

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