OFES wins national Blue Ribbon award

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Times Herald photo by Joan Koehne
Students arrive at Oconto Falls Elementary School on Monday morning and walk beneath the “Committed to Excellence” message that serves as a guide for education in the school district. The elementary school won recognition in the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program for closing achievement gaps between student groups.

Oconto Falls Elementary School is one of 329 public elementary schools gaining national recognition in the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. Oconto Falls Elementary was nominated by State Superintendent Tony Evers in January for closing achievement gaps among student groups.

“The recognition is appreciated, as the staff is highly committed to making Oconto Falls Elementary a great place for kids,” Principal Dan Moore said. “It’s the result of countless hours of hard work by many — a true team effort.”

Eight schools in Wisconsin won the Blue Ribbon award. On Nov. 7 and 8, the U.S. Department of Education will formally recognize the 279 public and 50 private schools at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Moore said the school will not send representatives to Washington, D.C., but will organize a celebratory assembly at the school.

The district’s motto, “Committed to Excellence,” is prominently displayed at the school. The motto is included in the school’s Blue Ribbon award application, along with the explanation: “It is the first of our school’s core beliefs –that “good enough” is “not enough” but rather excellence is the goal of everything we do.”

School officials say they are committed to a balanced program of learning opportunities, plus the arts, recreational activities and community service. Staff collaboration has been emphasized in recent years as essential to student success.

“We are regularly engaged in vigorous professional dialogue around ideas for improving teaching and learning,” the application states.

“The staff at OFES understands that, if approached with passion, open mindedness, and a little humor, there is no better job than working with children,” the application states.

“Nationwide, only a few schools earn the Blue Ribbon honor,” Evers said in commending the schools. “Every day, these schools build a foundation for their students to graduate ready for college and careers. Congratulations to the teachers, students, school administrators and staff members, as well as the parents and communities that support their efforts.”

Oconto Falls Elementary was honored in the “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing” category for closing achievement gaps for two groups of students: those with disabilities and those who are economically disadvantaged. According to 2015-2016 data, of the 550 students at OFES, 15.5 percent have disabilities and 44 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

The Blue Ribbon nomination was based on assessment scores from the Badger Exam taken in April 2015 by students in third through fifth grades and the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination taken previous years. A total of 212 students were tested in 2015.

Scoring advanced or proficient in English/language arts on the Badger Exam:

• 67 percent of OFES students.

• 42.5 percent of students with disabilities.

• 48.4 percent of students who were economically disadvantaged.

Scoring advanced or proficient in math:

• 57 percent of OFES students.

• 33.3 percent of students with disabilities.

• 45.2 percent of students who were economically disadvantaged.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized more than 8,000 of America’s schools since it began in 1982.