Texas’ Blue Ribbon Schools Show the Path Forward

The Spring 2022 administration of the STAAR test is fast approaching and will provide a critical look at how Texas students are faring following two years of learning interrupted by the COVID pandemic. While it is true that last year’s results confirmed troubling slides in achievement and increased gaps across student groups, this data also showed that some districts with large percentages of remote learners did see performance improvements.

Assessments are important not only for finding out where there are systemic problems but also for identifying what works. By delivering exemplary outcomes and closing achievement gaps, these schools and their teachers have modeled not only what can be accomplished, but how to do it. Our state certainly has work to do not only to reverse pandemic learning loss but to address wide gaps in educational attainment correlated to race, ethnicity, and income that predate the pandemic. Thanks to STAAR, we know there are schools across the state showing it can be done. 

Earlier this month, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the nomination of 26 Texas public schools as 2022 National Blue Ribbon School designees. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and private schools that have high student achievement and/or highlights where exemplary progress has been made in closing achievement gaps among student subpopulations. Since the program’s founding in 1982, 9,000 schools across the nation have received this prestigious designation from the United States Department of Education (USDE).

In Texas, public schools are considered for nomination based on student performance on the first administration of the previous year’s STAAR assessments, as well as College and Career data and Graduation rates, if applicable. This year’s nominees highlight the diverse learning environments found across the state, with the inclusion of traditional elementary, middle, and high school campuses, along with magnet and early college high schools, and are using innovative, research-based learning models to meet the needs of their unique student populations. 

For example, Kerr High School (Alief ISD) in Houston offers students the opportunity to work in a non-traditional, self-managed learning environment similar to college. Students have many choices on how, when and where to study as long as they are completing assignments by teacher-established deadlines and demonstrating academic growth.

Located on the campus of Midland College, Midland ISD’s Early College High School is a joint effort between the MISD and Midland College to provide students with the opportunity and support necessary to achieve their goal of postsecondary education.  Upon the completion of four years, it is expected that students will receive a high school diploma from MISD as well as an associate degree from Midland College through the confluence of high school courses and dual credit opportunities.  

And Devers Elementary School educators credit the small class sizes which allow teachers to adjust their day-to-day lesson plans based on student need. Last year, 82 percent of Devers students met grade level on STAAR with 87 percent on grade level in math and 82 percent on grade level in reading. The state average was 35 percent on grade level in math and 43 percent in reading. 

The nominated schools in Texas for 2022 include the following honorees:

Exemplary High-Performing Schools

Kerr High School Alief ISD
East Elementary Brownwood ISD
School for the Talented and Gifted Dallas ISD
School of Science and Engineering Dallas ISD
Devers Elementary Devers ISD
Garden City Elementary Glasscock County ISD
Grand Prairie Collegiate Institute Grand Prairie ISD
Gruver Elementary Gruver ISD
Gruver Junior High Gruver ISD
Happy High School Happy ISD
Early College High School at Midland College Midland ISD
Nursery Elementary Nursery ISD
Vega Elementary Vega ISD

Exemplary Achievement-Gap-Closing Schools

Bynum School Bynum ISD
Claude Schools Claude ISD
Dekalb Elementary Dekalb ISD
Terrell Elementary Denison ISD
J L Everhart Magnet Elementary Longview ISD
Muleshoe High School Muleshoe ISD
Smyer Schools Smyer ISD
Somerset Elementary Somerset ISD
Sonora Secondary School Sonora ISD
Springlake-Earth Elementary/Middle School Springlake-Earth ISD
Three Rivers Elementary Three Rivers ISD
Valley Mills High School Valley Mills ISD
Wink Elementary Wink-Loving ISD

The nominated schools must now complete a rigorous application process conducted by the USDE. National award winners will be announced in September of 2022.