Governor Lamont Congratulates Four Connecticut Public Schools on Being Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker today are congratulating four Connecticut public schools on being named by the U.S. Department of Education as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools. This recognition is given annually to select schools across the nation for demonstrating overall high achievement or success in closing achievement gaps.
The four schools are:
- Frisbie Elementary School in Wolcott;
- Northwestern Regional High School in Regional School District 7 (Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford, and Norfolk);
- Andrew Avenue Elementary School in Naugatuck; and
- Thames River Magnet School (formerly Mary Morrisson Elementary School) in Groton.
“Connecticut’s public school teachers are the best in the United States, and the tools they are providing our youngest residents will enable them to achieve success throughout their careers,” Governor Lamont said. “Every child – no matter their family’s income or the neighborhood where they are being raised – deserves access to a quality education that prepares them for achievement. There’s no doubt that we must continue on our mission to close persistent achievement gaps that have lingered for far too long, but I firmly believe that the strong work of so many of our educators is having an impact. I congratulate these four Connecticut public schools on earning this national distinction and wish them continued success.”
“Here in Connecticut, we have some of the best public school teachers in the country,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “These teachers have gone above and beyond for their students, prioritizing student’s needs and well-being during these unprecedented times. Every child deserves access to a quality education, and that access should not be based upon income levels or geographic location. Children deserve opportunities and resources, and thanks to the diligent work of our excellent educators, we continue to make progress on closing persistent achievement gaps. Congratulations to these four wonderful schools on their national recognition, and we wish them all success in the future.”
“The Connecticut State Department of Education congratulates all of the schools named Blue Ribbon Schools this year,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “These schools showcase the innovative practices underway in districts to ensure educational success and social-emotional well-being for all of their students.”
The Connecticut State Department of Education uses data from the Next Generation Accountability System to nominate schools for the National Blue Ribbon School award. Nominated schools must complete an application process and be approved by the U.S. Department of Education. All selected schools in Connecticut were Schools of Distinction for at least two years. National Blue Ribbon Schools are identified in two categories—Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing and Exemplary High Performing.
Frisbie Elementary School (Wolcott): Exemplary High Performing
Frisbie Elementary School is a consistently high performing school serving about 260 students in Grades K-5. This school has been identified as a School of Distinction in the accountability system for four consecutive years for overall high performance on a range of indicators as well as strong academic growth.
Frisbie teachers created an approach to problem solving – called “Bee a Problem Solver” – that is used with students in all grade levels to solve real-world math problems. The approach includes five kid-friendly steps to problem solving: identify the problem, make a plan, try it, critique your work, and fix mistakes. Teachers found that students struggled with critiquing work, so teachers responded by modeling and encouraging students to practice “accountable talk” in all subject areas. Accountable talk requires student-centered discussions that support the development of student reasoning, respects all members of the classroom community, and moves learning forward. This directly supports students learning how to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others,” which is one of the mathematical practice standards included in the Connecticut Core Standards and assessed as part of claim 3 of the Smarter Balanced mathematics assessment.
Northwestern Regional High School (Region 7 – Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford, and Norfolk): Exemplary High Performing
Northwestern Regional High School enrolls about 625 students from a variety of small towns. Five towns use this school as a designated high school, and its award-winning agricultural education program attracts students from many others. Grade 9 can be a difficult transition for many students, even when the majority of students have attended school together for many years. Studies conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research and replicated across the country show that Grade 9 course grades are predictive of on-time graduation as well as post-secondary enrollment. Connecticut’s accountability system includes a measure of “On track in Grade 9” calculated based on the percentage of students earning at least five credits in Grade 9. Additionally, the Early Indication Tool developed by the Connecticut State Department of Education helps districts track course failures through the middle grades and into high school so that appropriate supports can be provided to students.
Northwestern takes a proactive approach to easing the transition for students and building community through Link Crew, a student leadership program, before the school year begins. Supporting each other and the broader community are core values at Northwestern. In 2015, the district implemented a program called “Kindness in Motion.” This unique program has been recognized by InspirEd, Facebook, and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Kindness in Motion is a mini-grant program that empowers students and staff to design and implement projects that spread kindness within and beyond their community.
Over the last four accountability reporting cycles, Northwestern has shown improvement across key indicators. Overall performance has earned the school placement in Category 1, the highest grouping in the system, the last time accountability reports were issued. Northwestern is one of only nine high schools in Category 1 and one of six to be identified as a School of Distinction.
Andrew Avenue Elementary School (Naugatuck): Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing
Andrew Avenue Elementary School is a small Naugatuck school serving about 225 students in Grades K-4. More than 70% of students are from economically-disadvantaged families. Andrew Avenue educators take a trauma-informed approach to everything they do, paying attention to the needs of all learners and their families. The district has emphasized instructional routines and consistent use of technology across all schools. Andrew Avenue staff have implemented this with fidelity so that students and their families know what to expect and vertical collaboration within the school can be optimized.
To address social and emotional learning needs, the RULER program has been implemented in all classrooms. RULER helps students self-regulate and be ready to learn by Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating emotions. Students develop these skills for use in and outside of the classroom. As a result of RULER, students have learned to express themselves more effectively, become more confident, and are more likely to persevere through difficult tasks. The simultaneous attention to academic and social and emotional learning enables continued academic growth resulting in Andrew Avenue Elementary earning School of Distinction status for two consecutive years.
Thames River Magnet School (Groton): Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing
Thames River Magnet School in Groton (formerly Mary Morrisson Elementary School) is located near the Naval Submarine Base New London. About half of the students enrolled in this PK-5 school are from military families. Given the challenges associated with a highly mobile student body, the entire school community works to support students through transitions. The school partnered with the Military School Liaison Officer to implement the Anchored4Life program. Through this program, student leaders work with their peers to develop confidence and resiliency together. Ultimately, the program benefits military and civilian children by developing an increased sense of connectedness to each other and the broader community.
The entire team at Mary Morrison is focused on meeting students where they are and helping them grow. Their strategy to achieve these goals begins with a carefully articulated schoolwide schedule that embeds special educators as well as math and reading specialists in classrooms for instructional blocks. This approach allows for more personalized instruction for students and has led to the school’s recognition for high growth in Connecticut’s accountability system for two consecutive years.
For more information about the program, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program webpage.