By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun
6:47 PM EST, December 20, 2012
Four Baltimore-area schools are among the six that have earned state Blue Ribbon honors, Maryland Department of Education officials said on Thursday.
Baltimore County's Chadwick Elementary in the Woodlawn area and Charlesmont Elementary in Dundalk were the two elementary schools named on the list, which also included Folly Quarter Middle in Howard County, Robert Frost Middle in Montgomery County, Century High School in Carroll County and Boonsboro High School in Washington County.
Students at each of the schools perform in the top 15 percent on state assessments in reading and mathematics, state school officials said. The schools will also be invited by the U.S. Department of Education to apply for National Blue Ribbon honors.
Each of the schools will receive prizes, including an interactive smart board, an indoor Blue Ribbon School mural and a dinner in Annapolis, where they will be honored by the House of Delegates and Senate.
"Every one of these schools is in the top-achieving percentile in the entire state," Darla Strouse, executive director of the state Blue Ribbon Schools Program, said at an event Thursday honoring the schools at the state education department offices. "You should bask in the glory of the fact that you are top achievers out of 1,400 schools in the state of Maryland. That's a huge honor for you."
Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dallas Dance commended the efforts of Charlesmont and Chadwick elementaries, both of which are Title 1 schools — those that receive federal funds because they serve an impoverished, at-risk population.
"Being able to truly set high expectations for kids and have staffs in place that actually believe in those kids — that's what makes a Blue Ribbon school," said Dance, "and that's what you see at both of those schools."
At Charlesmont, 65 percent of the students are classified as economically disadvantaged; 98.7 percent of students passed the math part of the state assessments and 97.5 percent passed the reading portion.
"Our community is a collaborative learning community," said Charlesmont Principal Marsha Ayres. "Sixty-five percent of our students qualify for free and reduced [price] lunch, and you know what? It doesn't matter. If you teach kids, you teach them all the same way, and that's for the best."
Folly Quarter in Ellicott City posts a 99 percent pass rate in math and a 93 percent pass rate in reading.
Folly Quarter Principal Rick Wilson Jr. said he had an inkling that the school had won the honor when Strouse told him earlier in the week that he should come to the education department offices in Baltimore on Thursday.
"At first I said, 'Not the week before break. I can't be there, I'm sorry,' " said Wilson. "And she said, 'No, you have to be at MSDE.' It wasn't until Superintendent [Renee] Foose shared it with me [Wednesday] that it hit home."
Foose said that many other schools in the county are achieving at the level of Folly Quarter and added that teachers and staff "put students first and they're doing everything they can to make sure that students reach the highest level of achievement possible."
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