Not many schools are invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply for recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School. But that is exactly what happened to the Newton County Theme School (NCTS) at Ficquett.
The NCTS submitted its application last spring and last week was informed that it has been chosen as one of only 10 schools in Georgia and 329 schools nationally to be recognized as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School in the “Exemplary High-Performing Schools Category.”
“Our Theme School students, parents, teachers, and leaders have worked diligently over the last several years to be among the state’s top schools,” said Samantha Fuhrey, Superintendent for the Newton County School System (NCSS). “Their National Blue Ribbon Status confirms the good work taking place at the Newton County Theme School; not only was the Theme School identified as a National Blue Ribbon School, but they also were recognized with the Exemplary High Performing School designation. This recognition indicates the Theme School is among Georgia’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments. Additionally, student subgroup performance is also among the highest levels of performance. I am very proud of the work of the students, parents, and the entire Theme School team.”
This is the second time a NCSS school has received distinction as a National Blue Ribbon School since that program began in 1982. Middle Ridge Elementary School was similarly recognized in 2013 within the “Exemplary Improving Schools” category.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website (nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov), the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private K-12 schools in two different categories. The categories are based on overall academic excellence, which is the category in which the NCTS earned the distinction, and on progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Since the program began, over 7,500 schools have been recognized.
Joanna Fish, Assistant Principal for the NTCS, said this award was particularly exciting because it is not one that just any school can apply for. The schools which are recognized must be invited to apply. The U.S. Department of Education sends out invitations based on state or nationally normed assessment outcomes.
When asked about the secret to the NTCS’s success, Naomi Cobb, Principal, Ashanti Everett, and Fish all pointed to the school’s fabulous students, great and engaged parents, as well as teachers and staff members who “routinely go above and beyond.” Cobb underscored the high level of collaboration between parents and the school saying that the involvement of parent volunteers helps free up teachers so they can devote more time to teaching and learning. A unique hallmark of the NTCS is that parents are required to volunteer time to the school.
On Nov. 7 and 8, the U.S. Department of Education will host a special recognition in Washington, D.C. for representatives from all 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools. Fuhrey, Cobb, Everett, and Fish will be there on behalf of all of NCTS’s stakeholders.