News: CJ Exclusives

NC Schools Achieve Top Distinction

Seven public, three private institutions named among nation’s Blue Ribbon Schools

Seven North Carolina public schools were named 2004 No Child Left Behind – Blue Ribbon Schools by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige in mid-September.

Those elementary schools were among 205 public and 50 private schools to achieve the honor.

The public elementary schools that received the prestigious recognition were: Claxton Elementary and Isaac Dickson Elementary in Asheville; Claxton Elementary and Shadybrook Elementary in the Guilford County Schools system; North Hills Elementary in Winston-Salem; Pisgah Forest Elementary in Transylvania County; and Sunny View Elementary, located in Polk County.

“For years, many of our underprivileged children were ignored and pre-judged, moved to the back of the room and quietly pushed through the system, with their scores hidden in averages,” Paige said. “So we must change our approach, incentives, and expectations. We must foster a climate of academic excellence, enabling all students to reach the highest levels of scholarship.”

For the past 22 years, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized many of the nation’s most successful schools through its Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Schools selected for the honor model excellence in teaching, curriculum, student achievement, and parental involvement.

On July 28, 2002, Paige announced that schools singled out for national honors must also reflect the goals of the nation’s new education reforms for high standards and accountability found under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“In keeping with the principles of the No Child Left Behind Act, we will reward schools based on student achievement results, not process,” Paige said at the time. “Schools chosen for the Blue Ribbon will be ones that are meeting our mission to ensure every child learns, and no child is left behind. Blue Ribbon recipients will be national models of excellence that others can learn from.”

Blue Ribbon Schools are selected based on one of three assessment criteria:

• Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance on state tests, as determined by the state superintendent;

• Schools whose students, regardless of background, achieve in the top 10 percent on state tests; and

• Private schools that achieve in the top 10 percent in the nation.

Three private schools in the state attained Blue Ribbon status under the No Child Left Behind Act: Cary Academy, St. Timothy’s School in Raleigh, and Providence Christian School in Charlotte.

Of the schools submitted by each state, at least one-third must meet the criterion of having 40 percent of the students from disadvantaged backgrounds and showing dramatic improvement. State education departments nominate public schools for consideration. Once all nominations are received, the secretary of education invites the nominated schools to submit applications for possible recognition as a No Child Left Behind – Blue Ribbon School.

Elementary and secondary schools participate in alternate years, with middle schools participating with high schools in the recognition program. School representatives were honored during a National Recognition Ceremony scheduled for Nov. 4-5 in Washington, DC.

On Sept. 28 Paige and other members of the Bush administration encouraged parents and schools to present healthier choices for children to help prevent childhood obesity. Paige also announced federal education grants to support initiatives that help children eat healthy and exercise.

He made the announcement during a visit to North Ridge Elementary School in Raleigh, where he presented a grant check to the Wake County Public School System for its comprehensive, research-based program to encourage students’ lifelong physical fitness and good nutrition.

Wake County Schools are slated to receive more than $1.3 million over three years in the Carol M. White Physical Education Program. The program, part of the No Child Left Behind Act, provides grants to local school districts and community-based organizations to initiate, expand, or improve physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in grades K-12.

This year, the program will award a total of 237 new grants worth nearly $69 million.

“When our children are unhealthy, they are not ready to learn,” Paige said. “Millions of our K-12 students are out of shape; many are overweight or obese. And there are many reasons why: consumption of high-fat, high-calorie foods and drinks, consumption of soda, lack of physical exercise, and too much time on the Play Station or watching television or hypnotized by computer games.”

Paige also said that children need exercise, and that parents need to schedule exercise at home for their children. He cited a new report, using data from the Department of Education, which found that only 16 percent of kindergarten programs have daily physical education classes. Almost 60 percent of kindergartners have PE only once or twice a week, he said, while 13 percent provide PE less than once a week. Some schools have no PE classes or time.

“This is simply unacceptable,” Paige said in Raleigh. “We commit a great disservice against our children when we ignore their physical well- being and growth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends daily PE for all students grades K-12. That should be the standard for every school—PE for all students every day.”

Paige said PE is not available to many students from low-income or minority backgrounds. He said the DOE report found that small schools and those with a high percentage of low-income or minority students are more likely than others to have no PE in kindergarten.

“For the children here today, you can help make America healthier,” Paige said at North Ridge Elementary. “When you watch your diet and eat right, you become stronger. When you leave the computer and videos, and go outside to play, you will become healthier. And exercise should not interfere with your studies; you have time each day for both. You need to read passionately and conquer mathematics and science. If you can do all of this, you will have a world of opportunities before you.

“We can educate our children and keep them healthy. And it only takes the right incentives, some common sense and a resolute will to make this happen.”