Oakland named 'Blue Ribbon School'

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

Both its "high performing" reading and math test scores and its big gains earned Oakland Elementary School its recent national academic recognition, says the Carroll County Public Schools director of school improvement.

The Carroll County School Board held its Jan. 12 meeting at Oakland to honor the school for its achievement in 2009.

"It is my honor to officially announce and recognize that one of our schools... was one of 314 schools — 264 public and 50 private schools — honored in November as a 2009 National Blue Ribbon School," Beverly Parker read from prepared remarks at the meeting, before the school board, Oakland's faculty and staff assembled in the gym.

Oakland successfully competed against nominees from 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, she said. Achieving national blue ribbon status is a significant accomplishment for any school.

"In addition to being honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where each school receives a plaque and flag signifying their status, these schools also serve as models for other schools throughout the nation," Parker said.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors schools that are either "academically superior" or that "demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement to high levels," she explained. Oakland School is both.

She defined “high performing” as schools where testing results reach the top 10 percent off all schools in the state in reading and math.

Dramatic improvement involves schools that have a minimum of 40 percent from a disadvantaged background and the school demonstrates a "positive trend in test results from the earliest to the latest test year reported."

The results of the students in the highest grade tested "places the school in the top 40 percent of the schools in the state" for math and reading tests for all students, as well as each subgroup.

Oakland serves as an example of a school with dramatic improvement since the Virginia Standards of Learning tests were launched in 1997, Parker said. But Oakland now stands as a high-performing school, too.

Its test results range from a low of 77 percent passing up to 100 percent passing in reading and math from grades 3 through 5, Parker noted. Grade 5 pass rates for reading and math topped out at 100 percent from this period.

"They do this in a collaborative spirit," she said.

"They have a 'we' attitude — We can do this even with 73 percent of students representing 'disadvantaged' population, 15 percent of the students representing English language learners, 16 percent of the students with special needs other than limited English proficiency and a student mobility rate of 16 percent — factors that some may say would negatively impact student performance on standardize tests," she continued.

"However, Oakland, her leadership, faculty, staff, students and parents prove once again that not only can all students learn but also they can achieve at the highest level," she concluded. "Oakland Elementary School is a prime example of a school that meets both criteria."

With that, schools Superintendent Greg Smith presented the plaque to Principal Junior Gentry as the school staff gathered.