Pear Park, Garnet Mesa among Blue Ribbon schools
Pear Park Elementary School in Grand Junction and Garnet Mesa Elementary School in Delta are among five Colorado schools to win the national Blue Ribbon Award this year.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday announced the names of 269 winners of the 2012 Blue Ribbon Award. Schools can win the award based either on high achievement on this year’s standardized math and reading tests or, if the school has at least 40 percent of students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, a school can win for vastly improving student performance on those tests over a five-year period.
Both Pear Park and Garnet Mesa won Blue Ribbons in the improvement category, along with Avon Elementary School in Avon. Colorado’s other two winners, Slavens K-8 School in Denver and Summit Middle Charter School in Boulder, got a Blue Ribbon for achievement.
Pear Park is about to enter its seventh year in existence. The first spring Pear Park students took Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, 49 percent of third- through fifth-graders at the school scored proficient or better in reading and 52 percent were proficient or better in math. This spring, 84 percent of Pear Park third- through fifth-graders scored at or above grade level in Transitional Colorado Assessment Program reading tests and 81 percent of those students scored proficient or better in math.
Pear Park Principal Cheryl Taylor said students worked hard to earn those scores. She said teachers in the school spend “quality time” on math and reading instruction and ask students to work on math problems and reading at night. The school will have an assembly Monday to celebrate the Blue Ribbon win and invite teachers and students past and present to celebrate the accomplishment during the evening in a couple weeks.
Orchard Avenue Elementary School won the district’s last Blue Ribbon Award in 2010, also for score improvement.
“I think it shows we’re pretty focused on all students learning and moving forward as a district,” Taylor said.
Jim Farmer, principal of Garnet Mesa, said he was so thrilled with the Delta school’s Blue Ribbon he asked students and staff to wear blue to school Friday for the big announcement.
“I feel like it’s really probably the highest recognition that a school could get. We’re very honored and feel proud and excited that all of our teachers’ and students’ commitment has paid off,” he said.
Farmer said the school improved math and reading scores by having teams of teachers analyze student progress on a weekly basis and by adopting a conviction that all students can do well on TCAP tests, regardless of their backgrounds or challenges. Farmer said he believes that shift helped the school go from falling behind the state average in every category for percentage of students performing at or above proficiency in CSAP subjects five years ago to outperforming the state in nine out of 10 categories in 2012.
“I’d be guilty as anyone of making excuses for some subgroups because of their challenges. But the mindset now is we’re going to do everything we can to move them to that level and they can reach that level,” Farmer said.
Blue Ribbon winners will be invited to a national ceremony Nov. 12-13 in Washington, D.C. A principal and a teacher from each school are allowed to attend.