School one of just 304 honored nationally by U.S. Department of Education
By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
POCOPSON — For the second time in three years, a Unionville-Chadds Ford School District school has been honored as one of the nation’s elite schools. Pocopson Elementary School has been honored as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, one of just 304 public and private schools in the United States — and one of just 14 honored in Pennsylvania.
The news came in late Thursday and students and parents were notified Friday.
District officials were hopeful that Pocopson would be considered after it was nominated, but knew with Chadds Ford Elementary being similarly honored in 2008, it might be something of a long shot with so many other schools in Pennsylvania. When the news came in last Thursday, it created a great deal of excitement in the school community — as word spread.
“We were nominated last year and a group of teachers, parents and myself worked to complete the nomination process, said Dr. Andrew McLaughlin, Pocopson’s prinicipal. “Since we did not hear anything early in the school year, we did not know what to think. The news that we won on Thursday was very exciting and created a lot of energy with our students. The award is a reflection of the dedication and commitment from every component of our school, the students, parents and staff.”
The National Blue Ribbon School award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve at high levels or where the achievement gap is narrowing. Since 1982, more than 6,500 of America’s schools have received this coveted award.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a statement issued by the Department of Education, said that the award is a signal of academic excellence.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their success is an example for others to follow.” Duncan said.
Needless to say, school district officials were delighted with the news.
“We could not be more pleased with this honor and it is a fitting tribute to the dedication of the entire community — teachers, parents, students, administration, neighbors — and their recognition that a quality education is the best gift our kids can get,” Unionville Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Sanville said. “Hard work, perseverance, commitment and the understanding that we are all part of not only the UCF community, but Chester County, Pennsylvania, America, and the world enables our students to thrive in every arena.”
McLaughlin made it clear he felt that the entire school community should take pride in the award, one that required support from the entire community to make possible.
“The Blue Ribbon process was an excellent reflective tool that had the committee look back on all the things we are proud of about our school,” McLaughlin said. “It was an invigorating experience to look at all the events and programs that we as a team have developed that have had a positive impact on our school community. Certainly, it was reassuring to see the long-term level of academic performance as well. None of this could have been accomplished without the support from our parents, students, the community, the school board and the staff.”
Having been honored again — just a couple of years after Chadds Ford won — says something about the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, Sanville said.
“Oscar Wilde said it so well……..Success is a science — if you have the conditions, you get the result,” Sanville said. “Here at UCF and Pocopson Elementary in particular — the stage has been set for academic success. Blue Ribbon status validates what UCF has long been doing — working hard to reach and surpass high expectations using all available resources, talents, and pedagogical strategies. We leave no stone unturned in our efforts to give each student the best possible educational experience.”
The Blue Ribbon School Program was the brainchild of the second Secretary of Education, Terrel H. Bell, named by President Reagan. Best known for commissioning the study of American education that resulted in A Nation at Risk, Bell created the Blue Ribbon Schools Award.
The Blue Ribbon Schools Award is designed to bring public attention to the best school in the United States and recognize those schools whose students thrived and excelled. Its purpose has always been threefold: (1) To honor and bring public attention to American schools that achieve high academic standards or have shown significant academic improvement over five years; (2) To make available a comprehensive framework of key criteria for school effectiveness that can serve as a basis for participatory self-assessment and planning in schools; and (3) To facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools based on a common understanding of criteria related to success.
Working with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Bell launched the Blue Ribbon Schools and the National Distinguished Principals Programs in 1982. Since then, the application criteria have been aligned with the educational priorities of the Department while keeping to its essential purposes.
Public schools are nominated by the Chief State School Officers (CSSOs) and by officials at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE). The number of possible applicants from each state is based on the number of schools and K-12 students, ranging from a minimum of three schools to a maximum of 35. CAPE may nominate up to 50 private schools.
The potential for all nominations is 413 schools each year.
All nominees must qualify as either (1) high performing—schools in their states as measured by state tests in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics or assessments referenced against national norms —or (2) improvement to high levels—schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and have improved student performance to high levels in reading (English language arts) and mathematics on state assessments or assessments referenced against national norms. Disadvantaged is defined by the CSSO of each state; it must include students eligible for free or reduced-priced meals and may include students who receive Title I services, are limited English proficient, migrant, or in need of special services.
The other Pennsylvania schools honored were: Aiken Elementary School, Pittsburgh: Carbondale Area Elementary School, Carbondale; Case Avenue Elementary School, Sharon; Central High School, Philadelphia; Coebourn Elementary School, Brookhaven; Corpus Christi Catholic School, Lansdale; Forest City Regional Elementary School, Forest City; Memorial Elementary School, Bloomsburg; Nativity of Our Lord School, Warminster; New Eagle Elementary School, Wayne; Northern Bedford County Elementary School, Loysburg; Pleasant Valley Elementary School, McMurray; and Rose Tree Elementary School, Media.