The No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools program honors public and private elementary and secondary schools that make significant progress closing the achievement gap or whose students consistently achieve at very high levels. The following are excerpts from a recent article in Keokuk's Gate (IA) highlighting a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School in Iowa:
"Hawthorne Elementary School has received a national honor, being named a 2005 No Child Left Behind - Blue Ribbon School. ... Hawthorne is one of only five Iowa schools named a Blue Ribbon School. It also is one of just three Iowa schools honored for achieving in the top 10 percent of Iowa schools in reading and math scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, with at least 40 percent of its students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"I'm still so excited," said Principal Sharon Kokemuller. "This is very prestigious. I was notified Tuesday and couldn't tell anyone until Friday. I asked the high school band to come over and we had a school assembly Friday morning to announce the honor to our staff and students. The band came in with blue ribbons attached to their instruments. After playing a few songs, band students said in unison, 'Congratulations Hawthorne on your national blue ribbon award.' The teachers and students were surprised."
"Kokemuller and a teacher to be selected will attend a national awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. in November. A plaque and flag will be given to Hawthorne School there.
"This reflects the scores of the past several years," said Kokemuller in November 2004 when she found out Hawthorne was nominated by the state. "A lot of the improvement gets attributed to technology and the Renaissance reading and math programs. These are valuable resources and when used properly do make a difference.
"'But the bottom line comes down to good teachers and support staff. It's the people making the programs work.'"
"Blue Ribbon schools treat state standards as starting points and aim considerably higher. Teaching focuses on student learning and is adapted to meet students' needs. Small, heterogeneous group learning is an intentional teaching and learning style in these schools as is team teaching. All new teachers are mentored. Teachers have "autonomy with accountability." Professional development programs grow out of staff needs. Assessments include teacher, and sometimes student, created rubrics as well as standardized tests."
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