National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards: Celebrating Great American Educators

What happens when you bring representatives of 340 exemplary American schools together?

Collaboration and engagement!

Euphoria, emotion, and energy characterized the two-day celebration of the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools in Washington, D.C., on November 10th and 11th. The Blue Ribbon Award recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Aba Kumi presents the 2014 Blue Ribbon School Award to representatives of Tibby Elementary School in Compton, California.  (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Aba Kumi presents the 2014 Blue Ribbon School Award to representatives of Tibby Elementary School in Compton, California. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

More than 800 school representatives and supporters shared stories and ideas with one another and discussed how they could take their success stories to struggling schools across the country.

Secretary Arne Duncan answered questions from the assembled high-powered educators on topics ranging from early college high schools, early childhood education, and academic rigor.

Secretary Duncan high-fives Morgan Taylor, a 6th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Montgomery County, Md., after introducing him. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Duncan high-fives Morgan Taylor, a 6th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Montgomery County, Md., after introducing him. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett kicked off the ceremony with a talk on student equity and empowerment. Former Superintendent of the Year Marcus Johnson rocked the room with stories of the “tenacious love” of school personnel. Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, brought the audience to its feet with his deeply personal account of the instrumental role two high school teachers played at a critical moment in his life.

For eight principals, the ceremony occasioned a well-deserved moment in the spotlight as they were recognized with the 2014 Terrel H. Bell award for outstanding school leadership. The award, named for former U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel Bell, honored these exemplary principals:

  • Alicia Aceves of Andrews School in Whittier, CA brought her extensive reading background to focus intensely on student’s reading and writing skills through a school-wide Professional Learning Community and a daily intensive reading and writing block.
  • Candis Hagaman of Caldwell Early College High School in Hudson, NC restructured the rural high school to challenge students with college-level courses and create a robust, transparent, community of practice among faculty. Caldwell now graduates 100% of seniors.
  • Kathy Hunt of Edmond Doyle Elementary School in McAlester, OK, also the school’s arts teacher, has used an all-hands on deck approach, engaging all adults in her school and the business community to focus on improving student achievement in a high-needs community.
  • Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut of Houston Academy for International Studies in Houston, TX began the school in 2006 to provide opportunities for first-generation college-goers and equips students with national and international travel experiences and rigorous project-based learning.
  • Robert Kern, Jr. of Nazareth Area Middle School in Nazareth, PA, came on board as the school was rebuilding its physical plant and struggling to exit academic warning status. Kern finessed both and introduced daily remediation/enrichment, character education, and a focus on the arts and health.
  • Robert Lyall of St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Kingman, KS led his rural school through its demolition and reconstruction as a high-achieving school that now trains other schools in data use and differentiated teaching. Tapping his staff’s expertise, he has created a safe, culturally rich environment.
  • Mario Marcos of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Compton, CA, focuses his school’s turnaround efforts around a philosophy that “Excuses Perpetuate Failure” and has rallied staff, families, and students to develop afterschool academic supports, project-based learning experiences, and character education.
  • Britani Creel Moses of LaVace Stewart Elementary School in Kemah, TX closed her school’s achievement gap by introducing a two-way bilingual Spanish-English curriculum, a vibrant pre-K program, a summer program for struggling students, and mentoring programs for both students and teachers.
The 2014 Terrel H. Bell Awardees, L-R: Kathy Hunt, Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut, Mario Marcos, Candis Hagaman, Robert Lyall, Alicia Aceves, Britani Creel Moses, Robert Kern, Jr. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

The 2014 Terrel H. Bell Awardees, L-R: Kathy Hunt, Melissa Helene Jacobs-Thibaut, Mario Marcos, Candis Hagaman, Robert Lyall, Alicia Aceves, Britani Creel Moses, Robert Kern, Jr. (Photo: Paul Wood/U.S. Department of Education)

Aba S. Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program at the U.S. Department of Education.

Salk Elementary: Blue Ribbon Superstar Amidst Dramatic Change

While ED’s National Blue Ribbon Schools (NBRS) are all national stars of educational excellence, the challenges faced in their respective communities are not equal. High student achievement earned Merrillville, Indiana’s Salk Elementary School its official status as a 2013 NBRS. However, those accomplishments came about amidst striking demographic changes, making Salk a superstar, in my book.


A Salk first grader explains how he solved his math problem.

Since 2005, Salk’s low-income student population has nearly doubled, to 61 percent. The percentage of minority students – both black and Hispanic – also spiked more than 20 percent over the past 8 years in the Merrillville community, 40 minutes southeast of Chicago. The sheer number of students at Salk swelled from 479 to 674 in the same timeframe. And yet, more than 92 percent of all Salk students met or exceeded reading and math standards in 2012, including subgroups of black and Hispanic children, and students eligible for free or reduced priced meals.

Salk’s principal for seven years, Kara Bonin, said the key ingredient for the school’s success amidst dramatic change in Merrillville was a “no excuses attitude” among all staff, from educators to the clerical staff.

“We make the most of every minute that our students spend at Salk,” said Bonin, who recently became the Merrillville School Corporation’s Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction. “Teachers take extra time from their days to research new strategies to help specific students. Secretaries take time from their days to read to kids. Whether our students need remediation, enrichment, or something else – there’s always someone there to help,”

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Educational Excellence in Action: the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools

Just before the government shutdown, I took part in a very special day. I had the honor of announcing the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools. I’ve often said that the best ideas in education will always come from the local level, and these schools exemplify that. The 286 schools—210 elementary schools, 22 middle schools, 53 high schools, and one K–12 school— represent promising ideas in many different settings, from remote rural areas to the hearts of our major cities, from prosperous neighborhoods, as well as neighborhoods combatting poverty. They demonstrate that with great teaching, great principals, hard work, and community support, every child can receive a world-class education.

Lake Forest Elementary, New Orleans

A student at Lake Forest Elementary, New Orleans. One of 286 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

These 286 schools are powerful examples of vision and commitment in the service of America’s children. They are safe yet stimulating environments where all students are valued and held to high standards. Our challenge as a country is to take to scale what’s working, and the National Blue Ribbon Schools offer a golden opportunity to do that.

This year, we have captured some of their successes in a series of one-page profiles. I invite you to learn more about the great work being accomplished by these schools around the country. Here are a few brief samples of what you will find:

  • “Through embedding strategies for how to learn into the core content standards of what to learn, students who were once considered at risk demographically become scholars and college graduates.” Akron Early College High School, Akron, Ohio
  • “As the cornerstone of our ongoing success, we relentlessly follow the fundamental steps for improvement: analyze, evaluate, discuss, research, plan a course of action, apply, and begin again.” Okatie Elementary School, Okatie, SC
  • “Children explore and investigate using critical thinking skills. Special instructional days, Super Science, Mighty Math, Ecological Engineering, and Multicultural Field Days, involve the entire staff and community in our themes.” Walter Bracken STEAM Academy, Las Vegas, Nev.
  • “We are rural, we are suburban, and we are military. This makes for a great mix and a terrific educational experience…Making student academic achievement a priority, we use observation and assessment to sculpt instruction.” Scott Elementary School, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Every Child, Every Day, Whatever It Takes!

Michael Yudin Meets Student

Michael Yudin, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) talks with students in Sanger, Calif.

Earlier this week, Sanger Unified School District (Sanger, Calif.) had the opportunity to host Michael K. Yudin, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and what a great day it was! I met Michael several years ago when I was invited to share the Sanger story while I was in Washington, D.C., to celebrate being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School. After a two-hour conversation with a large group of Department staff, the conversation continued with Michael and a small group of others for another two hours.

That day’s conversation was centered on our efforts to transition into a Professional Learning Community district and the outcomes of that effort. The staff were very interested in the journey we were on and in particular the outcomes.  Michael, in particular, was truly impressed by the broad-reaching significant improvements and outcomes made by all students, including students with disabilities, in academic achievement, graduation rates, and scores on accountability testing. Michael told me he had to visit Sanger to observe directly a district making dramatic and meaningful improvements in student outcomes.

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Beating the Odds (and the Naysayers)

Teachers at the Department of Education were impressed with the Terrel H. Bell principals that we met during this year’s Blue Ribbon Schools National Celebration, but Blaine Helwig, the principal of Graham Elementary School, stood out because he has done what many thought was impossible: using home-grown strategies that others thought wouldn’t work.

Principal of Graham Elementary School Blaine Helwig

Blaine Helwig, principal of Graham Elementary School accepts a check earlier this year after receiving an excellence in education award.

A self-proclaimed “upstart,” Helwig said that his experience as a systems designer helped him plan systems that work for students in his school. “Yes, I am a rebel,” he told us, “There can be no doubt of that. I will not follow a curriculum that is designed for children to fail or produce the level of academic results we are seeing continually in these urban schools.”

Helwig’s school is about 95 percent low-income. As reported in the Austin Statesman, the school has struggled for years because “it’s not rich (and) it’s located on the wrong side of town.” Yet, against the odds, the students at Graham are exceling. Since taking the helm in 2007, the school’s academic achievement has grown so much that every student at Graham who took the state math exam passed it.

Helwig attributes his school’s success to focusing on the variables he can control. While he can’t change students’ home environments or fix their poverty, he said that he can ensure they get what they need in his school.

Read two stories from the Statesman that reveal insights into Helwig’s leadership style and strategies:  “Austin District Should Build on Graham Elementary’s Success” and “A Model of Academic Success at Graham Elementary.”

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, and a 14-year English teacher from Asheville, N.C.  

Duncan Addresses Passionate Leaders at Blue Ribbon Ceremony

Secretary Duncan at Blue Ribbon Ceremony

Secretary Duncan was introduced by Nina Todd, a 7th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, MD.

Presenting himself “first and foremost” as a parent of two public elementary school-aged children, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan expressed deep gratitude to more than 700 principals and teachers from the 314 National Blue Ribbon Schools who were recently recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Offering praise for the “amazing difference” they are making, Secretary Duncan told the assembled school representatives that they made him very hopeful about the huge challenges the country faces. “You are truly going to lead us where we need to go,” he said.

In response to a question about the best way to reach legislators in order to show them what is working in effective schools, Secretary Duncan said educators should invite elected officials to visit their school and classrooms. However, Duncan urged the audience to not focus solely on federal officials, but to involve their local and state elected leaders, because education decisions are often made at the state and local level.

When asked to identify the most successful qualities of a good school, Secretary Duncan put the spotlight back on the National Blue Ribbon Schools, explaining that every great school has a principal and teachers with passion for students’ growth and well-being. “Half of the work is intellectual. The other half comes from the heart,” he said.

Read the list of this year’s winners and learn more about the Blue Ribbon Schools Program here.

Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

Bells Ring for Top Principals at National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony

Behind every great school stands a great principal. “It’s the principal who shapes the vision, sets the tone, and targets the energy of the many people who run a school, Sec. Duncan said. “It’s the principal who inspires, cajoles, and models the excellence he or she knows the school can reach.”

2012 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership

From left to right: Kathy Raber and Marianne Stephens (accepting for Tracey McDaniel, OK), James Mireles (KS), Dianne Reynolds (AL), Blaine Helwig (TX), Liana Szeto (CA), Angela Carter (accepting for Pam Camper, AR), C. Todd Hall (MD).

Every year the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program invites nominations for the esteemed Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership. This year, seven principals of 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools have earned this distinction. They are:

  • Pam Camper, Principal of Russell D. Jones Elementary School in Rogers, Arkansas

    Frequently described as “tenacious,” Pam Camper reorganized her elementary school to maximize learning for her students, nearly three-quarters of whom are English learners, by hiring bilingual teachers and pairing classroom and English language development teachers as co-teachers. Through her outreach, parent attendance at parent-teacher conferences is 100%. Ms. Camper also spearheaded an extensive reading effort: Russell Jones Elementary raised funds to add more than 4,000 new books to the school library. Last year, more than 200 certified candidates applied for the few open teaching positions.

  • Christopher Todd Hall, Principal of Pocomoke Elementary School, Pocomoke City, Maryland
    Student performance at Pocomoke Elementary School performed was “persistently modest” when Todd Hall was appointed principal. After reviewing student data, Mr. Hall created a five-year plan to move Pocomoke from modest to masterful, based on: universal high expectations, data analysis, and data-driven instruction. Now every Pocomoke student has an individual learning plan—and a portrait in a graduation cap and gown in the school’s entryway. Mr. Hall empowered teachers through Common Core-aligned professional development, daily grade-level planning time, and peer-supported teaching assistance. Achievement gaps among student groups have been virtually eliminated.
  • Blaine Helwig, Principal of J. Walter Graham Elementary School, Austin, Texas
    To bring student scores from “barely acceptable” to exemplary in five years, Mr. Helwig devised strategies to help students master fundamental math and reading skills and designed a progress monitoring system for teachers that pinpoints what students know and what they need to learn next. He taps all specialists and staff to get extra help to students who need it. Mr. Helwig is also a skilled collaborator, bringing community and business groups in to build a School Garden and illustrate hallways with murals.
  • Tracy McDaniel, Principal of KIPP Reach College Preparatory School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Mr. McDaniel stepped off a traditional path to school administration to follow his dream. In 2002, he opened KIPP Reach College Preparatory, a charter middle school in the economically battered inner city neighborhood where he grew up. Admitting students by open lottery, Mr. McDaniel has used KIPP-customized curricula and extended student time on task through longer school days, Saturday school, and summer programs to give KIPP Reach students the momentum to succeed in high school and earn places at highly selective colleges and universities across the country.
  • James Mireles, Principal of Garden City High School, Garden City, Kansas
    When James Mireles arrived, half of Garden City HS students were not passing the state reading test and two-thirds were not passing the math test. To turn the 2,000-pupil school around, he created four student-centered academies and dissolved the culture of teacher isolation, instituting professional learning communities and common planning time during the school day. With grant funding, Mr. Mireles spearheaded an early warning system to identify and reach students at risk of dropping out, bringing the graduation rate up 17%.
  • Dianne Reynolds, Principal of Spencer Elementary School, Mobile, Alabama
    Spencer Elementary was close to a state takeover when Dianne Reynolds took the helm in 2004. In that first year, she overhauled Spencer’s ideals, expectations, and methods. She instituted professional learning communities, regular data meetings, and targeted professional development. Ms. Reynolds championed student competitions in reading and math, introduced character education, and scheduled intervention and enrichment activities to meet targeted student needs. Spencer Elementary School has just celebrated its second year as an Alabama Torchbearer School, a high achieving, high poverty school.
  • Liana Szeto, Principal of Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, San Francisco, California
    Hired in 1984 as a kindergarten teacher in the nation’s first public school Chinese Immersion Program, Liana Szeto has been tireless in developing Chinese curricula and materials, and in drawing students from all backgrounds. 1995, she opened Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, the first Chinese Immersion middle school in the country, backed by the same kind of rigorous preparation that ensured success in the elementary level program. Ms. Szeto has inspired other San Francisco educators as well: more than 15 schools offer full immersion programs in four languages.

Tie a Big Blue Ribbon on America’s Great Schools

National Blue Ribbon Schools: Recognizing Great American Schools

This year marks the 30th anniversary of an American tradition—the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. The brainchild of the second U.S. secretary of education, Terrel H. Bell, the program honors great American schools—urban, rural, suburban, public, private, charter, magnet, and choice schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels—across the country. The 314 schools in the 2012 cohort join a distinguished cadre. Of more than 138,000 schools in the U.S., only 7, 110 have been honored with this, the highest award the Department confers.

Secretary to Address Blue Ribbon Principals and Teachers

Principals and other school representatives will meet in Washington on Nov. 12 and 13 to celebrate their successes and share what they have learned with each other and with the Department of Education. In addition to Secretary Arne Duncan, guest speakers include Tyra Mariani, deputy chief of staff, on the Department’s new RESPECT initiative (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching); Marc Johnson, 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, on scaling up National Blue Ribbon School practices; Dee Gardner, principal of the National Middle School of the Year, on intuitive leadership in a data-driven world; and Michelle Shearer, AP chemistry teacher and 2011 National Teacher of the Year, on the complexity of teaching and the power of the human factor.

In addition to receiving their Blue Ribbon awards at a ceremony on Nov. 13, educators will have opportunities to share their best thinking on current educational issues as part of the Department’s National Conversation about the Teaching Profession.

For a list of the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools and more information on the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program visit the program’s page on

Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

Great American Schools: 2012 National Blue Ribbon Winners

Secretary Duncan thanks Arlington Traditional 5th grade student Paul Velasco for his gracious introduction. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

“Great schools don’t happen by chance. Great schools happen by design,” Secretary Arne Duncan said earlier today as he recognized the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools from the campus of Arlington Traditional Elementary School in Arlington, Va. Arlington Traditional is one of 269 schools selected this year—out of the more than 100,000 schools in the U.S.—to receive this accolade from the U.S. Department of Education. Secretary Duncan was joined at the announcement by U.S. Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy.

Secretary Duncan visits students

Secretary Duncan stayed after the announcement visit classrooms and talk with students. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

“The National Blue Ribbon Schools are the best of what our country has to offer,” Secretary Duncan told the assembled students, parents, teachers, and dignitaries. “They are models for schools across the country.”

Arlington Traditional Principal Holly Hawthorne noted that the school’s focus on academics, behavior, and character is the foundation of its success. “Behavior and dress standards help create a safe and inviting learning environment, and strong partnerships with families and the community foster each child’s whole development,” Hawthorne said. “Our students leave Arlington Traditional School as lifelong learners and future caring and contributing citizens.”

The 269 schools recognized this year represent 40 states, the District of Colombia and the Department of Defense Education Activity. National Blue Ribbon Schools are the “best in their class,” public and private elementary and secondary schools that produce outstanding results for all students. While all National Blue Ribbon schools have one thing in common–high or improving academic achievement –each great school has an inspiring story to tell about excellence in teaching and learning.

Read the list of this year’s winners.

Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

Parental Engagement Helps Lead to School’s Blue Ribbon Success

Arriving at Anchorage’s Chugach Optional Elementary School last month for a Blue Ribbon School celebration, I was greeted by an excited group of staff, students and parents. During our student-led tour, parent and teacher cooperation were on display amid colorful classrooms set up to resemble a comfortable home environment with couches, curtains and rugs.

School Choir Sings at Ceremony

A Chugach Optional choir sings as Anchorage School District superintendent Carol Comeau, left, and principal Anne Salzer, right, with ED's Linda Pauley look on. Photo courtesy of Anchorage Daily News.

Principal Anne Salzer explained that, “Parental Involvement is the key to success at Chugach.”

Chugach Optional was founded in 1973 because a group of parents proposed that the Anchorage School District offer an “option” to a traditional neighborhood school.  Their vision for the school was a progressive, open concept school, which ultimately became Chugach Optional.

Part of the founder’s vision was that parents should have a wide range of options within the District. Today the District has ABC schools, “Optional” schools, and language immersion schools. “Optional” is the label that stuck to schools like Chugach, though the pedagogical foundation is progressive, and open concept.

Salzer attributes six factors that have contributed to the school’s success:

  • High parental involvement
  • Emphasis is set on student responsibility for their learning (no letter grades, open ended assignments, choices for students)
  • Engaging activities
  • Arts integration
  • Inquiry learning
  • Multi-age classrooms

One of the student tour guides said that “having parents in the school makes me feel warm and comfortable –like home.”  A parent commented that, “Chugach Optional makes you feel like family, a place where you feel at home; everyone is on a first name basis.”

Click here to sign up for ED’s Engaging Families newsletter, and read more about ED’s Blue Ribbon Schools.

Linda Pauley works in the Office of Communications and Outreach in ED’s Seattle office.

Dancing Educators

Earlier this school year, principals and teachers traveled to Washington, D.C., from across the country to take part in the 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools Award ceremony.  Their schools were being honored by the U.S. Department of Education for their overall academic excellence or for their success in closing achievement gaps.

When it was time to receive their awards, some of the educators got pretty excited.

Watch the video:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony Lights the Way for the Nation

Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony

Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony (Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood)

They danced, they shouted, they boogied across the stage, reveling in the highest achievement a school can hope to achieve—National Blue Ribbon School recognition. Principals and teachers from the 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools convened at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15, where Secretary Arne Duncan praised the awardees, saying, “You are demonstrating what excellence in education means. We need to take what you do to scale. We want to learn about the best practices you have so they can be shared with the schools around the country that are struggling.”

America’s Superintendent of the Year Marc Johnson, and leader of a district with a 2011 Blue Ribbon School, has done just that. He noted that you have to know how far his school has come to really appreciate this award. In 2004, his Sanger Academy Charter School in California’s Sanger Unified School District was designated a program improvement school for not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets and being in the bottom 10 percent of schools in the state. “We wanted to get from worst to first,” he said.

This is our third blue ribbon school in the district in three years, not to mention having 13 California Schools of Distinction and 17 Distinguished Title I schools. It becomes a point of pride for our entire community. These awards help instill a belief in our community and our students—that they can succeed, but beyond that, we have become a catalyst for our entire region. Other school districts have seen what we’ve done, and they become empowered and say, ‘We can do what they do!’

Blue Ribbon Schools’ program director Aba Kumi greeted each of the 300 recipients as if his or her school were the first and only. Kumi, who has managed the program for five years, said, “It is such a joy for me to be here and have the Secretary and everyone recognize our Blue Ribbon schools. This is the culmination of a long, hard process, but it is completely worth it!”

Blue Ribbon Schools Recipients

Recipients of the Blue Ribbon Schools award (Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

Award recipients also had an opportunity to attend several breakout sessions over the two-day celebration, including a panel of principals discussing what they do to build their teachers’ and students’ capacity. Jeff La Roux, director of the Meadow Montessori High School in Monroe, Michigan and incoming president of the Association for Middle Level Education, said, “It all boils down to building relationships and trust with the staff and students. If people trust you, you can even give them bad news, and they will still follow your leadership. If there is trust, you will all go through the tough times together.”

ED’s 2011 Teaching Ambassador Fellows conducted four sessions for attendees on: Preparing for the Common Core Standards; Measuring Student Achievement; Creating a Voice for Educators in School Improvement and Policy; and Engaging Families and Communities in the Education Dialogue.

“Blue Ribbon school teachers and principals who participated in the Common Core/College- and Career-Ready Standards session, for example, developed a repertoire of best practices for professional development, which could help ensure successful implementation of these rigorous goals,” explained Gregory Mullenholz, the TAF who facilitated that breakout.

As part of the Blue Ribbon Schools Program, seven principals from the 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools received the Terrel H. Bell Award for outstanding work in fostering successful teaching and learning. The award, named after the former secretary of education, honors leaders who have overcome challenging circumstances to provide an excellent education for every student. Awardees include:

  • Karen Daugherty, Rose Tree Elementary School, Media, Pa.
  • Deirdra Gardner, Piedmont Open Middle School, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Nichole Heyen, Lincoln Magnet School, Springfield, Ill.
  • Lauren Kinney, Sundance Elementary School, Beaumont, Calif.
  • Traci Jackson, Shirley Hills Elementary School, Warner Robins, Ga.
  • Karen Noble, Hillcrest Elementary School, Nederland, Texas
  • Jack Spatola, Beacon School of Excellence, PS 172, Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Speaking with some of the Terrell Bell Award winners reminded me of the power of a strong school leader,” said Genevieve DeBose, the TAF facilitator for the school improvement and policy session. “As a teacher it’s empowering to work with a school leader of that caliber,” she added.

Blog submitted by Helen Littlejohn, Regional Director of Communications and Outreach, Western States.