In order to spread knowledge of innovative and successful school practices, the National Blue Ribbon Schools program profiles a number of schools from each year’s cohort. Stories are added as they are produced.
Building Culture and Enriching Learning through Art. In New Orleans, Louisiana, Lusher Charter School serves students in grades K-12 by integrating the arts across all grade levels and disciplines. As the school’s CEO puts it, “Lusher is a school where a student can come and thrive regardless of the level of their talents. We’ll use the arts when we’re happy, when we’re sad, when we want to explore things, when we want to celebrate. There’s nothing like the arts to build a culture.” Teachers work with visual and performing artists to design lessons that align with content standards, and which allow all students to explore and express their creative potential. In the early grades, students are exposed to many art forms; as they enter high school, they are able to focus on diverse college and career pathways, including earning a Certificate of Artistry in a specific art form, earning dual enrollment credit from local universities, and participating in an engineering-focused program of studies.
Learning from the World Around Them. Teachers at Paramount School of Excellence (now called Paramount Brookside) in Indianapolis, Indiana enrich their lessons using a variety of on-site school features, including a planetarium, farm, and beehives. These unique features help students learn from the world around them. However, the key focus for educators at this K-8 charter school is on providing high-quality instruction and ensuring that students can explain what they are learning in their own words. As the principal notes, “An imperative piece to great instruction here is that students can articulate and explain the concept that was taught”. The school is also a place where school leaders prioritize instructional leadership that helps teachers grow, and builds a shared sense of responsibility for providing students with strong academic support.
Bringing High School to College. High school goes to college at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School, which shares a campus and a vision for success with its partner institution, Lorenzo Walker Technical College. Students travel from all over the county to attend Lorenzo Walker, where they take academically rigorous classes while also receiving professional training in 25 career programs. After graduation, they are ready for whatever comes next. As the school counseling director explains, “When [students] walk across the stage, they are handed two diplomas: one from the college, one from the high school.” In this video, educators explain how the school has flourished despite some early challenges, and students share what they love about their high school and college experience.
No Excuses: Sustaining Success at a Former Turnaround School. Turning around a low-performing school is no easy task – and sustaining that turnaround over the years to come can be just as challenging. In this video, teachers and school leaders from Evergreen Elementary School in Spanaway, Washington explain how the implementation of a “No Excuses” model helped them improve and sustain their success over the long term. As teachers in the video explain, “We were a failing school and we stayed that way for a while”. But by changing their perspectives and taking on shared responsibility for school improvement, “we went from being the number 15 School in the district out of 15 elementaries to number 3, and we’ve just slowly progressed since then”.
Building School Culture by Leading with HEART. One of the most challenging tasks for any new principal is creating school culture, particularly when a strong culture already exists. This podcast walks you through the process Principal Alexander Ofili used at Village Oaks Elementary School in Novi, MI, to do just that. Principal Ofili explains, “it dawned on me that I wanted to respect what had already been established, but at the same time, I wanted to clarify what we see as important values.”
With a mix of veteran and new teaching staff and a collaborative spirit, they harnessed the most important principles that represented the school’s culture using the acronym, HEART. He explains in the podcast, “we believe that leading with HEART…creates an environment where kids are going to do their absolute best.”
Learning Through Real World Application highlights how one school expanded on a STEM theme to create a teaching and learning culture matched to the way young students learn. When each of the four K-6th grade elementary schools in Anderson County School District 4 were tasked with creating a unique “Signature Experience” in 2010, Mount Lebanon Elementary School decided to take on STEM. With a dedicated Engineering Lab, an enthusiastic teaching staff, and a focus on the engineering design process, Mount Lebanon created opportunities to integrate STEM throughout the school’s curriculum.
In the podcast, Principal Elliott Southard explains “we didn’t have any extra funding, we didn’t have any extra materials, we didn’t have supplies…it’s the people” that made the STEM program successful.