Elementary schools in East Grand Rapids and Byron Center were two of 13 Michigan schools that were recently named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.
The national program, started in 1982, honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.
Blue Ribbon status is granted based on:
- performance of all students, and each of the school’s subgroups, on state assessments;
- attendance for elementary and middle schools;
- graduation rate in high schools
The organization allows a proportional number of schools to be invited by every state to apply. In its 34-year history, the program has bestowed the award on more than 8,000 of America’s schools.
East Grand Rapids
Principal Craig Weigel thinks several factors contributed to Lakeside Elementary’s Blue Ribbon honor.
“It’s the partnerships with community stakeholders, a Board of Education that knows how to get things done and do it the right way, great teaching staff, parents who are involved in their children’s education and students who are always ready to learn,” Weigel said.
Teachers at Lakeside average 15.6 years’ experience, and seven of the 25 staff members who work directly with students have more than 20 years’ experience.
East Grand Rapids High School, Middle School and Wealthy Elementary are past Blue Ribbon honorees. Throughout its history, all the district’s elementary schools and its middle and high schools have received various recognitions from both a state and national perspective on their quality teaching and learning environments.
There’s something super going on at Marshall Elementary School.
It’s called Super Switch, and it’s what interim Principal Kari Anama cites as a reason the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School. Just last year, the district’s Brown Elementary School received the award.
Super Switch is personalized reading instruction that takes place after whole-group instruction. All students break into groups led by teachers, paraprofessionals and interventionists to read at their own level. Advanced readers participate in enrichment activities. Those at grade level keep on pace to continue advancing, and struggling readers work on intervention activities in very small groups.
Staff members regularly meet as a team to talk about every child, move them up a reading group or revise their plan to better meet their needs, said Anama. She is a former executive director of instructional services for the district, who led the implementation of Super Switch into all three elementary schools.
Anama said teachers work very hard for students to meet grade-level expectations for reading. “They believe all students can learn and they work really hard. Plus we have great kids and super supportive parents as well.”
And what do the students think of their Blue Ribbon school? “I like how we have really good teachers,” said third-grader Brooklyn Diaz. “They push us hard and I don’t get frustrated. I feel safe and they have fun assemblies.”