To be named a Blue Ribbon School is the highest achievement an elementary, middle or high school can achieve.
Four Arizona schools received the distinction last month from the U.S. Department of Education, including the Chandler Traditional School-Liberty Campus.
“This honor is a sense of pride for us,” said Beth Ann Bader, CTA-Liberty principal. “It makes us all proud of the students, and makes me very proud of all of my faculty and staff. They work very hard for the students.”
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program spotlights public and private schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students’ academic achievement. Since the program’s inception in 1982, more than 7,000 schools have earned this distinction.
The other Arizona schools awarded Blue Ribbon status this year, among 236 public and 50 private schools nationwide, were Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary School in Nogales, Sabino High School in Tucson and Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix.
“This is a proud day for these four schools,” John Huppenthal, state superintendent of public instruction, said. “This award recognizes a commitment to excellence in education — and more importantly, a commitment to our students. I want to thank the principals, teachers and staff whose hard work helped to earn their schools such a highly coveted national award.”
This national honor is the only common denominator between the four Arizona schools.
“I think what sets us apart is our amazing achievement and growth but also our program,” Bader said.
Not surprising, considering its name, CTA-Liberty uses the structured and phonics-based curriculum of the traditional program for language arts. Also utilized is an accelerated math curriculum where students study at a level above average for their grade.
The first of five fully traditional schools in the Chandler Unified School District, CTA-Liberty opened in 2002 “in order to address the desire of families who wanted a back-to-basics option” and “research-based curriculum,” the school’s website states. CTA-Liberty, which is not a charter school, finished sixth in the state on the 2012 AIMS test and 44th in 2013, but showed growth almost across the board. Both factors — achievement and growth — played into its Blue Ribbon award.
“This honor speaks highly of all the CTAs in the district,” said Bader, who will represent CTA-Liberty along with five teachers at the mid-November national Blue Ribbon ceremony in Washington. “Traditional schools can be very successful and here is an example.”
Jim Sexton, CEO of Phoenix-based Spalding Education International, the traditional curriculum CTA-Liberty implements, said his company’s method improves students’ ability to learn how to spell, write and read regardless of socioeconomics, ethnicity or native language.
CTA-Liberty’s nearly 750 students break down as follows: 65 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 13 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Black; 1 percent English language learners; 11 percent economically disadvantaged.
A four-year study from the ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton College of Education backed Sexton’s claims. Students “demonstrate higher and statistically significant learning,” the study summarized.
The Blue Ribbon program was founded in 1982. CTA-Liberty is the first Chandler school to earn the honor since 2002 and the 10th overall. Three Gilbert schools were given the title, including Neely Traditional Academy in 2009. Mesa had 15 Blue Ribbon schools, including one for five straight years from 2007-11.
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