10 Valley campuses named National Blue Ribbon Schools

The U.S. Department of Education recognized 27 schools in Texas as National Blue Ribbon Schools, with 10 from the Rio Grande Valley.

The La Joya, Roma, Hidalgo, Mission, Brownsville, McAllen and Valley View school districts, including IDEA Public Schools, each had a least one campus earning a distinction. The Texas Education Agency announced their nominations in January and the U.S. Department of Education officially announced the recognitions last week.

Courtesy Photo

“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a video message to the honorees. “As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning.”

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year, the U.S. Department of Education news release stated. In Texas, 26 of 27 recognized schools were nominated by TEA. The River Oaks Baptist School, a non-public school in Texas, also earned this distinction.

With 362 schools selected nationwide, the federal department “recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, student subgroup scores and graduation rates,” according to the U.S. Department of Education news release.

Exemplary High Performing Schools are those campuses that perform among the highest in its state, based on state standards or “nationally normed tests.” Four elementary schools in the Valley earned this distinction.

Putegnat Elementary in Brownsville, Sam Houston Elementary in McAllen ISD, Emma Vera Elementary in Roma ISD, and Wilbur E. Lucas Elementary in Valley View ISD all fall under the Exemplary High Performing schools category, according to a Texas Education Agency news release.

For Sam Houston Elementary, the announcement was met with celebration as students and staff were decked out in blue at the day of the announcement.

“(It’s such) a privilege to be ranked amongst the best schools in the nation…,” Sam Houston Elementary Principal Debra Thomas said Thursday afternoon. “It validates all the hard work that our teachers do, they spend hours and hours working to make sure they are planned and prepared for our students each and every day.”

This is Thomas’s 10th year as a principal and has been with the district 21 years.

“It’s a testament to the hard work that our staff is putting in here and our student body,” McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez said. “Ms. Thomas (principal) does a phenomenal job leading this campus and this is just a culmination of all that hard work.”

The other category is the Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools, which includes campuses that are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students. The six other Valley schools fall under this category, with five elementary schools and one campus in an open-enrollment charter.

These include Hubert Hudson Elementary in Brownsville ISD, Hidalgo Park Elementary in Hidalgo ISD, Elodia R. Chapa Elementary in La Joya ISD, Hilda C. Escobar/Alicia C. Rios Elementary in Mission CISD and Valley View North Elementary in Valley View ISD.

“This is outstanding news,” Mission CISD Superintendent Carol Perez said in a news release. “This reflects the hard work and dedication of the students and staff at Escobar/Rios. Going through the nomination process can be a very daunting task. I am proud they stuck with it.”

IDEA Quest College Preparatory in IDEA Public Schools, the only campus recognized from the Valley that is not an elementary school, also earned a distinction in Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.

The Secretary of Education and the Department of Education invited the recognized school honorees at an awards ceremony on Nov. 14-15 in Washington, D.C.