Fennimore Elementary School has earned National Blue Ribbon School recognition for the first time.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, identifying 337 schools who received the honor based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement.
“I think that this is a result of our classroom teachers, specialists, pupil services and parents working together to a common cause,” Fennimore District Administrator Jamie Nutter said. “I think our parents are really willing to help and our staff members work well together. If everyone tried to do their own thing rather than working as a team it wouldn’t happen.”
The Department of Education will honor 287 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 10-11 in Washington, D.C. In its 32-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on just under 7,900 of America’s schools.
“These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American education—that all students, no matter their name or zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative, and challenging learning environments,” Duncan said. “National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student.”
Fennimore Elementary School was one of only eight Wisconsin schools nominated for the honor by State Superintendent Tony Evers in February. The school was a first-time nominee.
“Every year we try to improve and as we try to improve we aren’t necessarily looking for external recognition,” Nutter said. “Our recognition is when students improve achievement compared to their baselines at the beginning of the year to the growth at the end of the year. That is the primary job.
“It is nice to have exceeded expectations and be honored with a prestigious award. We aren’t looking for recognition, but when you are recognized you feel good about it and are really proud.”
Cedarburg High School, Lakeshore Elementary School, Fond du Lac School District; Ozaukee Middle School, Northern Ozaukee School District; Prairie View Elementary School, Mukwonago School District; Roosevelt Elementary School, Janesville School District; Spring Valley Elementary School, Antigo Unified School District; and Westside Elementary School, River Falls School District, also earned National Blue Ribbon Status.
“There are only a handful of schools in each state that earn the Blue Ribbon honor each year,” Evers said. “Winning this award is due in large part to the collaboration of teachers, school leaders, and staff members as well as families and the school community. They work together to put student learning at the center of daily activity.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content.
All schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:
• Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates are also at the highest levels.
• Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in 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.
Specifically, for the 2013-2014 award year, the Department of Education strengthened the focus of both categories’ performance criteria around subgroups within a school and improving graduation rates for all students.
Fennimore Elementary School is an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School and has a “Closing Gaps” index score in the top 15 percent of the state.
The Department of Education invites National Blue Ribbon School nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools. A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction. The U.S. Secretary of Education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.
The U.S. Department of Education contributed to this report.