By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Want to see a first-rate school?
Look no further than Delano High School, one of six Minnesota public schools named a 2009 Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education Tuesday.
“We’re extremely excited,” Principal Matt Schoen said. “I really want to congratulate the staff, students, parents, and people in the community. They have been so supportive.”
Out of the more than 120,000 public and private schools in the nation, Delano High School was one of 314 schools to be selected for this award.
Each of the selected schools will be honored at a ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 3 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. Schoen and one staff member will represent the school at this event.
Each Blue Ribbon School 264 public and 50 private will receive a plaque and flag, along with recognition on the US Department of Education web site.
“To be nationally recognized as one of the top schools, that’s quite an accomplishment,” Schoen said.
In order to qualify for this award, Delano High School had to be nominated by the chief state school officer from the Minnesota Department of Education. State test scores, including meeting Minnesota’s adequate yearly progress requirement for 2008-09, were one critical factor, Schoen said.
Demonstrating the ability to help all students succeed was also important during the application process, he added. Delano High School strives to incorporate a learning environment that engages students of all ability levels, Schoen said.
“Schools can get this award one of two ways,” Superintendent John Sweet said.
Delano received the award for being in the top 10 percent of Minnesota on test scores.
Some schools were chosen based on dramatic improvement. These were schools with at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Delano High School has demonstrated “consistent excellence,” Sweet said.
“It’s hard for us to improve because of our high achievements,” he said.
The school’s focus statement is “educational excellence is our foremost goal,” Sweet said.
“Schools only do two things,” Schoen said. “They improve, or not. It’s impossible to stay the same.”
Even with the national recognition, Delano High School will be actively seeking ways to develop, he said.
“This is a great honor to the teachers, faculty, and administration of these schools,” Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann stated in a congratulatory letter. “These schools are shining stars in America’s education system.”
“I encourage every school in America to look at these blue ribbon winners not only as a resource, but also as a reminder of what our schools can be,” she added.
The other five schools in Minnesota that were selected for the Blue Ribbon honor include Remer Elementary in Remer, Vandyke Elementary in Coleraine, Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, Jefferson High School in Bloomington, and Lakeville North High School in Lakeville. A private school from Edina, Our Lady of Grace Catholic School, was also chosen.
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program began in 1982 as a way to honor public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either academically superior or have made drastic improvement. According to the US Department of Education, a school can be nominated once every five years.
A total of 413 schools nationwide can be nominated. This number is determined based on the number of K-12 students and the number of schools in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
For the past 27 years, more than 6,150 of America’s schools have received this award.
For more information about the Blue Ribbon Program, or to see a complete list of schools that received the award, go to www.ed.gov.