Principal of Latino school awarded “Blue Ribbon Award” on what it takes to succeed

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Today, 286 schools – 236 public and 50 private – were honored with 2013 National Blue Ribbon Awards in Washington, DC.

“Excellence in education matters and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “National Ribbon schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world class education.”

The award honors elementary, middle and high schools based in two categories: “Exemplary High Performing” or overall academic excellence; and “Exemplary Improving,” schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in achievement levels as measured by national tests. The award has been given to nearly 7,500 schools in its 31-year history.

 

Linda Perez, principal of Anthony Elementary School in New Mexico, receiving the Blue Ribbon Award on November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Courtesy Linda Perez)

Linda L. Perez, principal of Anthony Elementary School in Anthony, New Mexico, was one of the principals honored with the award in Washington in the “Exemplary Improving” category.

“It’s been improving over the last three years,” says Perez. “This is my fourth year at the school. We started teacher-made comment assessments, and their assessments have a pre-test and post-test. Using the pre-test, they looked at what students need, and the post-test sees the growth.”

She says Anthony Elementary School is made up of 440 students, and it is 100 percent Latino. Ninety-nine percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunch, and more than 70 percent are English-language learners.

“When I got there, the school was about 40th percentile in reading and math, and so they needed help in a lot of things,” says Perez. “You have to form your own professional communities and find out where student achievement needs to be improved.”

Most of the interventions, she says, were made by the classroom teachers themselves. However, there were also a few programs like leveled literacy intervention, and math navigator, which were implemented school-wide and focus on the students’ individual needs such as reading comprehension specifically, or a 20-day intervention on only addition or fractions, for example.

“Last year we were number five in all of New Mexico,” says Perez, proud of her school’s improvement. “We are in the high 70’s in mathematics and 60’s in reading.”

Although, there is still room for improvement, she says there is something working, and she foresees only more improvement in the future.

“Accountability of every teacher for every child, collaboration, and no excuses,” says Perez. “We have seen improved academic scores, better attendance, and a culture proud to be learners…the students now say things like, ‘I see,’ ‘I learn.’”

Originally published at NBC Latino.