National Blue Ribbon Schools are special places, each unique to their communities, their students, their staff, and their leaders and are producing outstanding results for all their students regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zip code. They are closing the gaps in student achievement and, in most cases, demonstrating consistent excellence.Each year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program visits a handful of schools to learn more about what makes these outstanding schools tick. Video profiles offer glimpses of dynamic students, teachers, and principals in action—a day in the life of a National Blue Ribbon School.
Featured below are two 2018 National Blue Ribbon awardees that demonstrate the power of learning in hands-on and creative ways. These schools show that students flourish when given the opportunity to apply and express what they’ve learned in innovative contexts. Aided by teachers who couple high academic expectations with a strong commitment to providing support, students at these schools are active participants in their own education.
Building Culture and Enriching Learning Through Art tells the story of Lusher Charter School (led by 2018 Terrel H. Bell Special Lifetime Leadership Awardee Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger) where the arts are integrated across all grade levels and disciplines. Teachers center student creativity by working with visual and performing artists to design lessons that align with content standards. In the early grades, students are exposed to many art forms; as they enter high school, they are able to focus on disciplines that most spark their passion. As one student says, “I find that people generally try to put you in a box, but Lusher has told me…break that box, do both theater and engineering and anything else that [I] might want to do.”
Learning from the World Around Them showcases Paramount School of Excellence (now called Paramount Brookside) where students can apply their academic learning to hands-on lessons at the school’s on-site features. Biology standards come alive for students studying animals on the school farm, and math lessons take shape as students calculate costs for planting crops in the school greenhouse. Paramount is also a place where school leaders prioritize instructional leadership that helps teachers grow, and builds a shared sense of responsibility for providing students with strong academic support.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program website library features over 50 school video profiles, as well as podcasts and written descriptions showcasing stand-out practices and school features that contribute to awardees’ success. Featured practices span a wide array of content areas and grade levels, in schools representing urban, suburban and rural settings, and in both affluent and low-income neighborhoods where students are thriving.
Learn more about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program here. We look forward to announcing a new cohort of 2019 awardees this week.
Aba Kumi is Director of U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.