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Platteville Middle School earns a Blue Ribbon
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Platteville Middle School is one of 335 schools in the U.S., and one of nine schools in Wisconsin, to be named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

The announcement was made by the Department of Education and the state Department of Public Instruction Tuesday morning.

“I’m excited for the staff and the students,” said PMS principal Jason Julius. “I think it’s a testament to the work they put in.”

Platteville Public Schools superintendent Connie Valenza said the award "is significant in that it really speaks to the overall quality of instruction that our students receive. I sincerely congratulate the Middle School Staff on this achievement.  As with other recent achievements, we know that the foundation that our students receive in our elementary schools plays an important role in the success they achieve at Platteville Middle School."

“This honor recognizes your students’ accomplishments and the hard work and dedication that went into their success,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a video message Tuesday morning. “Your journey has taught you collaboration, intentional instruction, and strong relationships in school and with your community. You represent excellence — in vision, in implementation, and in results — and we want to learn as much as we can from you.”

“These schools are among a select group across the nation,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers in a news release Tuesday. “They set high standards for achievement and teachers, school leaders and staff members, families, and the school community work together to ensure that all children succeed.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools in which students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing achievement gaps. The Blue Ribbon schools will be honored in Washington Nov. 9–10.

Platteville Middle School was one of two Wisconsin middle schools — the other was Lake Shore Middle School in the Mequon–Thiensville School District — to be named a Blue Ribbon school. Sevastopol Middle and High School was also honored, as was Onalaska High School and Washburn High School. Also honored were Endeavor Elementary School in the Portage Community School District, Howard Elementary School in the Howard–Suamico School District, Magee Elementary School in Two Rivers, and St. Stanislaus and St. Stephen Elementary School in Stevens Point.

Platteville Middle School was honored in one of the two categories, Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing, for closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates for each subgroup are at high levels. Endeavor and Magee were also honored in that category. PMS was one of three middle schools in the U.S. to get the Blue Ribbon for that category.

“Not only are our kids achieving, but the fact we’re getting kids who are struggling to perform at a higher rate is exciting,” said Julius.

The other Blue Ribbon category is Exemplary High Performing Schools, which are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or national tests. 

PMS was one of eight Wisconsin schools and one of two Wisconsin middle schools nominated. The Department of Education has honored 7,500 schools nationwide.

Julius has been PMS principal since November 2013. He credited former PMS principal Lisa Finnegan, now the principal at Westview Elementary School, for the work that led to the Blue Ribbon award.

“It’s ownership — these are our kids,” he said. “You sit at staff meetings, in grade meetings, and it’s what can we do to help this child succeed. They wrap their arms around the kids, and I think this award is a testament to that.”

The Blue Ribbon award adds to the list of recent awards for Platteville schools.

Newsweek magazine ranked Platteville High School the second highest ranked Wisconsin high school in Newsweek magazine’s America’s Top High Schools 2015, and the highest ranked state high school on its Beating the Odds list, “schools that do an excellent job of preparing their students for college while also overcoming the obstacles posed by students at an economic disadvantage.” Newsweek ranks the top 500 U.S. high schools on college readiness, graduation rate, and percentage of college-bound students.

Platteville Public Schools scored 79.8, highest of any Southwest Wisconsin school district, in the 2013–14 state Department of Public Instruction school report cards. PHS ranked sixth in Southwest Wisconsin with a 79.7, while Westview Elementary School ranked third with an 82.7, and Platteville Middle School ranked fifth, with an 80.

PPS ranked 18th among the state’s more than 400 school districts, with Platteville High School 31st statewide, in the online Niche K–12 comparison of Wisconsin high schools. PPS and PHS got the highest ranking of any school district and high school west of Madison and south of La Crosse. The Niche rankings were based on statistics and student, parent and alumni surveys.

Westview Elementary School was one of 173 Wisconsin schools to be named a Title I School of Recognition by the DPI. Westview was one of 28 schools to be named High Progress Schools, which fall within the top 10 percent of schools experiencing growth in reading and math and have achievement gaps of less than 3 points between student groups or show evidence of reducing gaps.