Valley Heights Elementary School named 2023 National Blue Ribbon School

Live at Five
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 12:58 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Valley Heights Elementary School was named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

U.S. Department of Education officials announced on Tuesday, Sept. 19 that they recognized 353 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2023, including four schools in Kansas, one of which being USD 498 Valley Heights Elementary School in Blue Rapids, Kan. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups on assessments.

Valley Heights Elementary School Pre-K - 2nd Grade pictured.
Valley Heights Elementary School Pre-K - 2nd Grade pictured.(Valley Heights Elementary School)

The other Kansas schools that were named National Blue Ribbon Schools include:

“The honorees for our 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award have set a national example for what it means to Raise the Bar in education,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The leaders, educators, and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. As the Biden-Harris Administration partners with states and schools to accelerate academic success and transform educational opportunity in this country, we take tremendous pride in the achievements of these schools and their commitment to empowering educators, serving students, and engaging families.”

U.S. Department of Education officials said the National Blue Ribbon School award affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in striving for - and attaining exemplary achievement. National Blue Ribbon Schools represent the full diversity of American schools and serve students of every background.

U.S. Department of Education officials indicated National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective and innovative school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation. A National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing a school’s entryway or on a flagpole is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.

The U.S. Department of Education officials said they recognize all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students. Nominated schools also complete an extensive narrative application describing their school culture and philosophy, curriculum, assessments, instructional practices, professional development, leadership structures, and parent and community involvement.

The U.S. Department of Education officials noted up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites nominations for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

USD 498 Valley Heights Superintendent Sean Spoonts shared a comment about receiving the Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.

“Valley Heights Elementary is incredibly honored to receive the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our outstanding students, committed educators, supportive families, and the entire school community,” said Spoonts. “It showcases our unwavering commitment to providing a high-quality education that empowers students to excel academically and grow as responsible citizens. We are immensely proud of this achievement, and it inspires us to continue striving for excellence in education.”