Only three schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties were recognized as 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools based on the school’s overall academic excellence by the U.S. Department of Education on September 30. This honor was bestowed on Westminster Christian Academy of Fort Lauderdale, The Kings Academy of West Palm Beach and Morikami Park Elementary School of Delray Beach. Included among only 337 schools named nationwide, these schools are making an impact on education and are considered high performers against national norms.
According to Morikami Elementary Principal Stacey Quiñones, “This recognition from the Department of Education for our dedication to student achievement is the ultimate validation.”
In 1981, then-Secretary of Education Terrell H. Bell commissioned a study of American education, and the report, which was issued two years later as A Nation at Risk, described a “rising tide” of mediocre schools that threatened the nation’s future.
Bell worked with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Association of Secondary School Principals to create the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award to bring exemplary U.S. schools to public attention and to recognize those schools that stand out.
There were certain key criteria that schools needed to achieve in order to apply to the program, including high test scores, community service, and challenging learning programs.
Westminster Academy Elementary Principal Rebecca Myers recognized, “Maintaining test scores in reading and math consistently is very difficult in a changing climate, but we have been able to do that.”
For 44 years, Westminster Academy (WA) has educated and equipped children as a Christ-honoring, Bible-centered, covenant, college-preparatory school, which is a ministry of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.
Only 50 private schools
Out of the 30,861 private schools in America, WA and The Kings Academy were two of the 50 recognized for their dedication to excellence.
“The King’s Academy stands out in the community with a reputation for excellence in academics, fine arts, and athletics, all within a distinctly Christian worldview,” said Director of Development Glenn Martin. “For more than 44 years, the school has presented students with opportunities to excel in their area of giftedness while graduating students who impact their world for the King of kings. Athletic teams regularly compete for state championships, and band, choir and theater programs are recognized on a national level.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. The award also affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content.
The Kings Academy Elementary Principal Heath Nivens acknowledged, “Our continuous exemplary performance as an elementary school would not be possible without the dedication of such a professional group of faculty members, a committed contingency of parents and diligent students.”
A culture of service
“First and foremost, WA is a Christian school devoted to Christ and serving His people,” said Myers, who affirms that we were not put on this earth to be the center of attention but to be others-centered. “We make Love Bags for the homeless, collect can goods to fill the pantries of community soup kitchens and donate clothes for families in need.” They also teach their students to send letters to American soldiers who are protecting our country or send care packages to WA alumni who are at college away from home.
In the area of Academics, they’re implementing interactive programs to engage learning. “The reading here is above grade level and what holds the students’ interest in literature is the way teachers incorporate the literary material [four novels a year] in the classroom with interesting character analysis workshops and technology that supports that curriculum, which increases the reading performance,” explained Myers.
Westminster, The Kings Academy and Morikami Park Elementary will be honored alongside 287 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony held on November 10 – 11 in Washington, D.C.
Each school will receive a plaque and a flag as symbols of their status as National Blue Ribbon Schools. In its 32-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this coveted award on 7,900 of America’s schools.
“These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American education — that all students, no matter their name or zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative, and challenging learning environments,”Secretary Duncan announced. “National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student.”