Orchard Avenue Elementary wins Blue Ribbon status

Orchard Avenue Elementary School on Thursday became the first institution in School District 51 to be recognized as a Blue Ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education, according to the school district.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program has existed since 1982 and honors schools that demonstrate high academic performance or tremendous growth in academic performance.

Six Colorado schools earned the accolade this year; the other five are on the Front Range.

Nationwide, 304 schools were named Blue Ribbon winners this year.

Orchard Avenue Principal Denise Hoctor said the Colorado Department of Education contacted her in August to say the school would be recommended for the Blue Ribbon program.

The school was picked because it fell in the category of improving student performance to high levels as measured by statewide standardized tests while also having 40 percent or more of its students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Hoctor said she is more proud of winning the Blue Ribbon title for this reason than for the other way schools can qualify, which is to have consistently high scores and any amount of disadvantaged students.

“We were nominated for closing the achievement gap. That says more about teaching and learning,” Hoctor said.

Hoctor said she spent 40 to 50 hours filling out the Blue Ribbon application, which asks principals to explain how their schools made improvements or reached high scores. Hoctor said a tight-knit group of teachers sharing ideas and examining what each student needs, instead of labeling them and expecting less as a result, helped Orchard Avenue succeed.

Hoctor and Orchard Avenue resource teacher Ann Roussin will travel to Washington, D.C., Nov. 15–16 to accept a plaque and a Blue Ribbon flag and spend time discussing best practices with teachers and principals from other Blue Ribbon schools.

A school is limited to receiving Blue Ribbon status once, and Hoctor plans to celebrate with cake and a party for students, parents and teachers who have taught at Orchard Avenue or currently teach there.

“It’s just a really good feeling to know the work of these people has been recognized. Our kids are benefitting from all the work they’ve put in,” Hoctor said.


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