Farmland and Ronald McNair Elementary Schools in Montgomery County both received the 2017 National Blue Ribbon School Award. Over 8,500 schools nationwide have received this award; this year, recipients included 342 schools from 44 states as well as the District of Columbia. In addition to these two public schools, only four other public schools and seven nonpublic schools in Maryland received this award, for a total of 13 across the state.
Through its National Blue Ribbon Schools program, the U.S. Department of Education strives to honor primary and secondary schools for their academic excellence and strides in closing the achievement gap. The National Blue Ribbon title awards schools, often with a high economically disadvantaged population, that have scored well nationally and statewide in mathematics and the language arts.
“Maryland has some of the best schools in the nation, and our great teachers and students are vital to their success,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “These six schools offer an exceptional teaching and learning environment for our students, and I congratulate them on this tremendous achievement.”
Farmland and McNair are the 38th and 39th Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to be presented with this great honor. This follows their designation as a Maryland Blue Ribbon School this past December, where they received a monetary prize, office supplies, new interactive technology, and a congratulatory party.
With the motto, “Together We Can,” Farmland harbors a diverse student population, boasting students from 23 countries as well as 179 ESOL students who speak a total of 24 different languages. Despite the language obstacles, Farmland achieved a 74 percent proficiency in math and a 66 percent proficiency in the language arts during PARCC testing sessions.
Ranked the 11th best public elementary school in the state and among the top in the county, McNair serves a diverse body of 875 students, including both the economically disadvantaged as well as ESOL and special education students. After steady progress in their standardized testing scores, McNair now boasts more than 62 percent proficiency in math and the language arts.
McNair has several programs that have facilitated success. McNair’s Home School Model program teaches special education students in all grades. As a professional development school with Towson University, McNair also trains up to 15 teachers each year.
McNair is also in its fourth year as a Positive Behavioral Inventions and Supports (PBIS) school and has earned the prestigious Bronze Award for its successful implementation. As a PBIS school, McNair tracks progress through coupons as well as quarterly town hall meetings.
McNair’s Principal Sherilyn Moses credits her students for this honor. “We tell them all the time, ‘Work hard. Be nice.’ This is an honor to their hard work. I tell them that you want to SOAR when no one is looking,” Moses said.
The ‘SOAR to success’ acronym reminds students to be safe, organized, actively learning and respectful. To reinforce these attributes, students recite the SOAR pledge during morning announcements every day. Considering that McNair was named to honor the NASA astronaut Ronald McNair, who died during the Challenger launch of 1986, SOAR goes beyond a superficial level to honor the past as well.
Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith commends this accomplishment as a hand to the entire school system. “Outstanding teaching is the crux of high levels of learning. It is clear that this has led to great results for our children. We are so proud of this wonderful accomplishment,” Smith said.
The 2017 recipients of this award were honored by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at recognition ceremonies on November 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Alice Zhu of Richard Montgomery High School
Photo Courtesy of MCPS