The National Blue Ribbon School Award is an award that acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in aiming for, and reaching, educational excellence. The program was founded in 1982 by the second U.S. Secretary of Education, Terrel H. Bell. Best known for commissioning A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, Bell began the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program to highlight schools that modeled the kind of excellence and sound practice that all American Schools could strive for and reach.
More than 8,800 schools across the country have been presented with this coveted award since the program’s inception. This year, of more than 133,000 public and 36,000 private schools in the United States, only 300 public schools and 49 private schools received designation as National Blue Ribbon Schools. Red Rock Central Secondary School was one of those 300 schools in the nation, one of eight schools in the state, and the only secondary school to receive the award in Minnesota! Mr. Goetstouwers, 5-12 principal, had the honor of representing Red Rock Central School in Washington, D.C. at the official two-day ceremony to receive the official National Blue Ribbon Award plaque and flag.
Public schools are nominated by the Chief State School Officers of all 50 states, which would currently be Brenda Cassellius, Commissioner of Education for Minnesota. The number of nominations allocated to each state is based on total K-12 student enrollment and the number of public schools. Allocations range from a minimum of three nominations to a maximum of 35.
Every National Blue Ribbon School is exemplary. Schools may be nominated as exemplary high performing if they are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests and student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates are also at the highest levels, or as exemplary achievement gap closing if they are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years and student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates for each subgroup are also at high levels. At least one-third of nominated schools in a state must serve populations of 40% or more students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Red Rock Central School strives to lead in academic success and our school has performed at high levels on the state and nationally-normed exams for a long time. Over 40% of our students qualify for the free/reduced lunch program (FRP), yet our school is successful in keeping the achievement gap to a minimal between our FRP and non-FRP students. Most years we are achieving 100% 4-year graduation rates. Occasionally, there is a student or two who needs additional time to receive their diploma.
This prestigious award is something we should all celebrate proudly. As Representative Rod Hamilton said at our student assembly, “Red Rock Central students can write on their college and scholarship applications and resumes that they were part of a National Blue Ribbon Award school.” Staff, alike, can add this to their resumes. It is possible to receive this award again in the future, but we have to wait at least five years to be considered for nomination. Our goal should be to build on our current success, not settle on the fact that we must be good enough if we received this accolade. This challenge requires a strong commitment from our staff, students, and community. As we know, new staff and students will become part of our system and new resources, curriculum, technology, and support will be necessary.