This week, the U.S. Department of Education recognized 269 public and private schools as 2012 National Blue Ribbon schools. Several Latino elementary, middle and high schools were honored for their overall academic excellence or progress in improving students’ academic achievement.
For 30 years, the Nation Blue Ribbon Schools Program has honored nearly 7,000 American schools. This year, 219 public and 50 private schools received recognition at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Among those schools, 40 had a Hispanic population of 20 percent or higher.
“This is very exciting. They work extremely hard and for that school to be recognized nationally, it is a very high honor,” says Dr. Virginia Abernathy, speaking about the Russell D. Jones Elementary School in Rogers, AR, which is 76 percent Hispanic. Dr. Abernathy, who is the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, noted that 80 percent of the students at Russell are second language learners.
“The staff there goes above and beyond, and our families are all extremely engaged,” says Dr. Abernathy. Russell D. Jones Elementary has an outdoor butterfly garden, and students can grow fruits and vegetables and cook them at home with their families. They also have interactive equipment for students to read while riding stationary bikes during health and fitness classes.
“They are always working on getting that brain engaged. Students get their left and right brains working at [Russell D. Jones Elementary],” says Dr. Abernathy.
Fairhaven Elementary School in Santa Ana, CA — where 93 percent of its students are Hispanics — was also one of the schools on the list.
“The teachers’ continual focus on student learning needs and parent partnerships have yielded tremendous academic outcomes for students,” states Dr. Gunn Maire Hansen, Assistant Superintendent of the Orange Unified School District. Regarding Fairhaven’s distinction, Dr. Hansen notes, “OUSD is pleased to have a first time National Blue Ribbon School and commends the staff and students for all their hard work in creating an Exemplary Improving School.”
Schools are put into two categories for the National Blue Ribbon award: Exemplary Schools and Exemplary Improving Schools. Exemplary schools have high state achievement levels and do well on standardized tests. At Exemplary Improving Schools, such as like Fairhaven and Russell D. Jones, 40 percent of the students come from underprivileged backgrounds, and prove progress in state and nationally-assessed tests.
“Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a press release. “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway to a strong, secure future.”
For the full list of 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools visit the Department of Education’s website.