EDITORIAL: Rankin at the top

Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo on Tuesday joined the lengthening list of Northeast Mississippi schools achieving national Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. Department of Education for a second time.
Rankin first won the award in 2000-2001.
The designation, earned by meeting criteria related to national and state education goals and exceptional individual campus performance, is the department’s highest honor for elementary, middle and high schools in communities of all sizes and descriptions.
In early November, after an official presentation in Washington, Rankin will join three other Mississippi schools (Center Hill Elementary, DeSoto County; D’Iberville Elementary, Harrison County; Long Beach Middle School, Long Beach School District) in flying the distinctive Blue Ribbon banner in 2009-2010, and in displaying the award.
Ten other schools in Northeast Mississippi have won the designation since 1982: Tupelo High School (twice); Thomas Street Elementary, Tupelo (twice); D.T. Cox Elementary, Pontotoc (twice); Church Street Elementary, Tupelo; Pontotoc Junior High; Sudduth Elementary, Starkville; New Site High School; North Pontotoc High School; and, Pontotoc High School.
The awards application process involves rigorous, honest self-evaluation and assessment, a healthy exercise for every school.
The 2009 list, as in previous years, includes both public and private schools. The public schools follow a nominating process through their states; private schools are nominated through a national association. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this year announced 314 schools, 264 of them public. A maximum of 440 schools can be nominated nationwide.
“They are places where improved teaching and learning benefits every student, and where students are challenged to meet high expectations with the active support of teachers, parents and the community,” Duncan said.
The DOE standards signify excellence in two ways:
n Schools whose students, regardless of background, achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on state tests, or in the case of private schools, in the top 10 percent of the nation on nationally normed tests.
n Schools with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that demonstrate dramatic improvement of student performance to high levels on state tests or nationally normed tests.
Of the schools submitted by each state, at least one-third must meet the criterion of having 40 percent of the students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools are eligible for nomination and application once every five years, an incentive for all schools to set standards higher and strive, at least, to qualify for application.
Winning the award boosts school and community morale and affirms the idea that strong community support remains an essential element in all schools’ achievement.

NEMS Daily Journal