Narragansett Elementary School and Kingston Hill Academy are among the tops in the country, both being named as 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools.
The U.S. Department of Education selected the schools, along with Charlestown Elementary School, as three of just 367 schools nationwide for the honor, which measures each school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Now in its 38th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed almost 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools, with some schools winning multiple awards.
“Congratulations to our school communities – Charlestown Elementary, Kingston Hill Academy, and Narragansett Elementary – who earned this high honor from the U.S. Department of Education,” Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Angélica Infante-Green said. “This award is a credit to the teachers, school staff, students and families who work hard every day to create environments in which children can learn and thrive. They are shining examples of excellence in learning in Rhode Island.”
Schools are eligible for nomination after five years, and up to 420 schools may be nominated each year.
The 317 public and 50 non-public school recipients of the 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards will be honored at a virtual ceremony on Nov. 12 and 13. Typically, educators are invited to a national event in the nation’s capital, but that was canceled this year because of COVID-19.
It was mostly business as usual this week at Narragansett Elementary School and at Kingston Hill Academy, where students have returned to classrooms after taking COVID-19 safety measures such as wearing masks and socially distancing, among others.
But administrators at all three Rhode Island winners were enthused and proud of the national distinction bestowed last week on their schools.
“We are particularly proud of the recognition for closing achievement gaps,” Narragansett Superintendent of Schools Peter Cummings said. “For Narragansett this is a huge achievement, because we’ve been working really hard on instruction and how to reach all learners.”
Students that had previously struggled academically are improving, particularly in underserved populations, Cummings said. He also credited former NES principal Gail Dandurand.
“This doesn’t just happen over one year,” he said. “This is work over time.”
NES planned to mark the honor on Oct. 2 by having a day for students and teachers to wear blue and show their pride, Principal Lisa Wilson said. Schools also receive a banner to hang in their buildings as well as a plaque.
Wilson also credited support from the community for the award.
“It’s unbelievable the level of support that parents show students and teachers,” she said. “It’s just amazing.”
The award is a first for all of the three Rhode Island Schools chosen.
Kingston Hill Academy is a public charter school in Saunderstown. The school opened in September of 2001 with just 40 kindergarten students. Since that time, the school has grown to 260 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Alison Carr, chief administrator of Kingston Hill Academy, visited with students in her former fifth-grade classroom on Tuesday.
“It’s quite the honor,” Carr said. “And it’s a nice birthday present to get in our 20th year.”
Students at Kingston Hill come from all over the state, with most from North Kingstown, Warwick and Chariho, Carr said.
The academy is operated under a charter granted by the Board of Regents of the Rhode Island Department of Education and follows RIDE regulations, including assessment and teaching standards.
“Success comes when groups of people rise up to support a common goal,” Carr said. “This speaks to the way our educators work together to support each student, giving them what they need and meeting them where they are to help them grow.”
Each classroom has two teachers - a lead teacher and a co-teaching partner. The school is in the process of expanding its classrooms and early childhood program, Carr said.
Chariho Regional School District Superintendent Gina Picard said Charlestown Elementary School students show “perseverance, tenacity and a love of learning.”
“While the school community collectively understands the needs and struggles of all our students, that never interferes with the teachers’ ability to ensure we have high expectations and stretch students’ thinking. The dedicated work of Jennifer Poore, the principal, our educators, and support staff at Charlestown make the school a shining success,” Picard said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, schools are recognized for the prestigious award in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates: exemplary high performing schools and exemplary achievement gap closing schools.
“Congratulations to this year’s National Blue Ribbon School awardees,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “It’s a privilege to recognize the extraordinary work you do to meet students’ needs and prepare them for successful careers and meaningful lives.”