2019 Blue Ribbon

Oak Grove Elementary named 2019 National Blue Ribbon School
Posted on 09/26/2019
Blue Ribbon eagle

For the second consecutive year, a school within the Poplar Bluff R-I District has earned the highest honor achievable for an educational institution in America. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that Oak Grove Elementary has been named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School for its leading academic performance measured by state assessments among 362 public and private schools total and only eight recipients in Missouri.

“We recognize and honor your important work preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” DeVos said in a video message to the honorees. “As a National Blue Ribbon School, your students’ success demonstrates what’s possible when committed educators partner with parents and community leaders to create vibrant, challenging cultures of learning.”

Based on all student scores and those of subgroups, along with graduation rates, Blue Ribbon winners are first nominated as Gold Star Schools by the state commissioner of education, and third graders must continue to perform at the top level afterward.

During the 2016/17 school year, 86.2 percent of Oak Grove students scored proficient or advanced in English language arts and 72.4 in mathematics on the Missouri Assessment Program test. The following year, the elementary school earned 75.7 percent in English and 84.5 in math. While the current Annual Performance Report will not be released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education until October, measurable objectives at Oak Grove have been met, education officials confirmed. 

“They have worked so hard to build teacher teams that are honest with one another and 100 percent committed to improvement,” said Patty Robertson, R-I assistant superintendent of curriculum. “The conversations were not always easy and weekly meetings were a major commitment of time. Classroom teachers, reading teachers, special education teachers and classroom aides all took part in the effort.”

Besides being in the top 15 percent overall, nominees must also be ranked in the top 40 percent for the performance of super subgroups statewide. Oak Grove was nationally recognized in 2018 for closing the achievement gap among student groups by an average rate of 24 percent, earning the National Title 1 or ESEA award. 

Additionally, the district’s four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate needs to be in the top 15 percent across Missouri, making the award a district-wide effort. The graduation rate for Poplar Bluff High School currently stands at an all-time high of 94.2 percent, and has increased annually over the past decade, according to the DESE core data collection system. 

“We’ve been nationally recognized two years in a row for having one of the best schools in the country, which is just an indication of the high-quality work that is taking place throughout the district,” stated Dr. Scott Dill, Poplar Bluff superintendent. “There is no secret formula to this. We simply immerse ourselves in research-based best practices with an emphasis on collaborative professional learning throughout our school community. We understand we are better when we work together.” 

Since implementing positive behavioral interventions and supports, earning silver recognition under the system last year, discipline referrals at Oak Grove have decreased by 75 percent, dropping from 538 five years ago to 132. Establishing building-wide expectations has allowed educators to focus on using data to differentiate instruction under the professional learning community model, making constant adjustments to meet the needs of all students. The school district also subscribes to Capturing Kids’ Hearts, a relationship-capacity building initiative that gives faculty members the tools to make breakthroughs in the classroom environment. 

“Without a positive culture in place through PBIS and Capturing Kids’ Hearts, we wouldn’t have a platform to have effective collaborative teams,” explained Jenifer Richardson, Oak Grove principal of 10 years. “It begins with a strong solid foundation focused on positive culture, and then you have to have the right mindset in order to do the work required to be an effective professional learning community and get results.” 

Lake Road Elementary was the first school in Poplar Bluff history to receive the Blue Ribbon award in 2018. For 37 years, the national program has bestowed recognition on more than 9,000 schools in an effort to share best practices. In November, Oak Grove will be honored by the U.S. Department of Education during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and will be presented a flag to signify its exemplary status.

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