Dignitaries, Elk River Area School District leaders and some old friends joined Parker Elementary for a big celebration Thursday, Dec. 1, as the school celebrated its designation as a U.S. Blue Ribbon School.
U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced earlier this school year that Parker Elementary School in Elk River had been named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. Parker is one among 279 public and 50 private schools receiving this honor.
“This is a day for you to soak it in, enjoy and really celebrate as a staff and as a school,” said Assistant Superintendent Jana Hennen-Burr at special breakfast for school staff. “This is an incredible achievement.”
Minnesota Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer was the master of ceremonies for the event. He said the earning a national award such as this takes a “team effort.”
“On a baseball team, you only enjoy success when everyone is doing their part and performing at the best level possible – from the front office to the field,” Bremer said. “The same can be said for this school. You only earn a Blue Ribbon award if you’re all operating at the top of your game. This is a great accomplishment for all of you and, really, for all of us in the school district.”
Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and then they must complete a comprehensive application about school practices. Schools may apply for status as being among the top schools in a state, based on test scores, or making progress in closing achievement gaps.
Some school staff members represented Parker Elementary at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November to celebrate their hard-won achievement.
“It was an incredible time, and something that none of us will ever forget,” said Scott Lempka, principal at Parker, of the trip to the nation’s capital. “We were very proud to represent all of you.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools. The award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon Schools flag gracing a school’s building is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.
Now in its 34th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on fewer than 8,500 schools. 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.
- 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.
A Minnesota Reward School, Parker Elementary falls into the first category, Exemplary High Performing. The elementary school ranks third in the state in reading and in the top 20 in math, according to 2015 assessments.