AVON - When you nearly double your standardized test scores while serving a mostly minority student population, the education industry's powers that be pay attention.
Take Avon Elementary School, for example, which is one of only five Colorado schools nominated for the national Blue Ribbon School Award by the Colorado Department of Education.
"We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far and honored by the nomination from the Colorado Department of Education," said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, Avon Elementary school principal. "During the next few months, we will be focused intently on our instruction and student growth in order to continue excelling and working toward attaining 'National Blue Ribbon School' status."
To be nominated, schools have to demonstrate academic consistency. In Avon Elementary's case, that included significant improvement.
Avon Elementary was nominated based on its Exemplary Improving status. That means that at least 40 percent of its students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and the school has closed its achievement gap - the gap between the school's highest performing students and its lowest performing students.
That data is gleaned from the school's performance on standardized tests.
Rewold-Thuon is bilingual and smiles as she tells you about her school in both English and Spanish.
Between 2009 and 2010, Avon Elementary saw its standardized test scores shoot up more than any other local school by far.
In 2009's Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores, only 39 percent of Avon Elementary School's third graders were proficient readers. When the 2010 scores rolled in, 73 percent were proficient.
Just 16 percent of the school's students were native English speakers when they took that 2010 test.
The last time Avon Elementary's CSAP scores were that high, the student body's ethnic makeup was almost the exact opposite of what it is now, she said.
Of the 39 Avon Elementary students who took the CSAP in 2010, only four were native English speakers, Rewold-Thuon said.
Even though CSAP offers a Spanish version, very few Avon Elementary students used it. They took the test in English, and 73 percent scored as proficient or advanced.
It really does take a village, she said. The Vail Valley Foundation and the Youth Foundation provide tutoring and after-school athletic programs, along with music and dance programs, Rewold-Thuon said.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Award recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools that excel regardless of race or socioeconomic status, said. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Award recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools that excel regardless of race or socioeconomic status, said U.S. Department of Education guidelines.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools program is part of the U. S. Department of Education's effort to recognize school leadership and practices, said Aba Kumi, director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools program.
"For many schools, attaining the National Blue Ribbon School award and recognition is a realization of a long-held dream," Kumi said. "National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models for other schools throughout the nation and details of their achievements are shared on the U.S. Department of Education's website."
Each year since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes schools where students attain and maintain high academic standards, especially those who beat the odds, Kumi said. Over the past 29 years, the program has honored more than 6,000 schools.
"America's long-term economic prosperity and civic engagement depends on our children receiving a world-class education," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a written statement. "National Blue Ribbon Schools are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their success is an example for others to follow."
The 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools will be named in September. The winning schools will then be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC, where each school receives a plaque and flag.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.