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Parker Celebrates Blue Ribbon Award

Dignitaries, ISD 728 leaders and some old friends joined Parker Elementary for a big celebration, Thursday, Dec. 1 as the school celebrated its designation as a U.S. Blue Ribbon School.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., announced earlier this school year that Parker Elementary School in Elk River had been named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. Parker is one among 279 public and 50 private schools receiving this honor. 

“This is a day for you to soak it in, enjoy and really celebrate as a staff and as a school,” said Assistant Superintendent Jana Henne-Burr at special breakfast for school staff. “This is an incredible achievement.”

The morning events were keyed by ISD 728 friend and Minnesota Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer, who said earning a national award such as this takes a “team effort.”

“On a baseball team, you only enjoy success when everyone is doing their part and performing at the best level possible – from the front office to the field,” Bremer said. “The same can be said for this school. You only earn a Blue Ribbon award if you’re all operating at the top of your game. This is a great accomplishment for all of you and, really, for all of us in the school district.”

Schools are nominated for the award by the state department of education, and then complete a comprehensive application about school practices. Schools may apply for status as Exemplary High Performing—among the top schools in a state—or Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing—schools making the fastest progress in the their state in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.  

School Representatives represented Parker Elementary at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November to celebrate their hard-won achievement.

“It was an incredible time, and something that none of us will ever forget,” said Scott Lempka, principal at Parker, of the trip to the nation’s capital. “We were very proud to represent all of you.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Every year the U. S. Department of Education seeks out and celebrates great American schools, schools demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing an entry or flying overhead is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.

“Over the past several years, Parker Elementary has been a shining example of our mission – to educated, empower and insprire our learners,” said Shane Steinbrecher, ISD 728 Board Chair. “The effort to make Parker a top school for our learners – a place where we inspire and empower our kids – has been noticed locally with our district year-end awards. It has been noticed on a state level, with recognition from the Minnesota Department of Education as a Reward School. And now, the rest of the Country knows what we know – Parker Elementary is a very special place, and a Blue Ribbon Award School.”

Now in its 34th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on fewer than 8,500 schools. All schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High Performing Schools are among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools 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.

A Minnesota Reward School, Parker Elementary falls into the first category – Exemplary High Performing. The elementary school ranks third in the state in reading and in the Top 20 in math, according to 2015 assessments.

“When I came here as a principal, the first bit of advice I received from colleagues was, ‘Surround yourself with great people. Great teachers.’ And I certainly think we did that,” said Mike Malmberg, principal at Parker until 2014 and now superintendent of Pillager schools. “I can’t thank you enough for making me a part of this day, and congratulations to all of you.”