Highland Elementary Named Maryland Blue Ribbon School

December 18, 2008
Highland Elementary School Named One of Six 2008 Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools

Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring was named today as a 2008 Maryland Blue Ribbon School by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

The Blue Ribbon Schools program is a state and national program, which honors schools that exhibit high performance and/or significant improvement in reading and mathematics achievement, as measured by the state’s assessment under the No Child Left Behind Act. Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools go on to compete for National Blue Ribbon Awards, which will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2009.

Highland Elementary School currently has a poverty rate of 81.6 percent, one of the highest among schools in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Approximately 60 percent of Highland students participate in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. In the 2004-2005 school year, the school was identified for Corrective Action by MSDE for missing Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) for four consecutive years. Just two years later, Highland Elementary School exited MSDE School Improvement status after achieving AYP for two consecutive years.

“Highland Elementary is a remarkable turnaround story, and we are so pleased that the school community is being recognized for its academic achievement,” said Board of Education President Shirley Brandman. “The school’s test scores have soared, thanks to a talented school staff, inspired leadership from Principal Ray Myrtle, and to our wonderful students who have worked hard and demonstrated their commitment to academic success.”

“Highland Elementary’s overall success is helping to shatter the stereotype that students in poverty and those who are learning English cannot achieve at the highest levels,” said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. “The academic performance of the school and its students are proof that race, ethnicity, and poverty need not and should not be predictors of academic success.”

In the 2007–2008 school year, Highland’s scores on the MSA significantly exceeded the standards and rivaled those of schools that do not face the challenges associated with highly diverse, high poverty, and high mobility student populations. Of particular note is the percentage of students scoring at the advanced level on the MSA. For example, from the 2006–2007 to 2007–2008 school years, there was a 56.1 increase in the percentage of Grade 5 students scoring at the advanced level in reading, from 23.5 percent to 79.6 percent, with double-digit increases in five of six areas measured by the assessment.

In order to achieve these results, the school administration has focused on setting high standards for all students and developing an active program of parent engagement. A schedule was developed that allows teachers to team together in classrooms. Limited English Proficient and special education students have complete access to mainstream curriculum. Instructional leadership positions, including a reading specialist, reading coach, and math content coach, are used judiciously to ensure that the needs of individual students are being met. The results have been nothing short of phenomenal.

“I am so proud of the Highland Elementary School community,” said Principal Ray Myrtle. “This is an extraordinary tribute to our students, to their families, and to our great staff, all of whom have played a very important part in our success and share in this wonderful accomplishment.”

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