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Second graders at Hampstead Elementary School race past Ronnie Rebhan, physical education teacher, as they practice the 400-meter run during gym class April 24.
Second graders at Hampstead Elementary School race past Ronnie Rebhan, physical education teacher, as they practice the 400-meter run during gym class April 24. (Photo by Lauren Linhard , Carroll County Times)

Six Maryland schools, including one each in Baltimore, Carroll and Howard, were named Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools on Tuesday morning at the Annapolis State House.

The designation is given to the state’s highest performing schools or those with extraordinary success in closing the achievement gap between student demographic groups.

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The schools are Jacksonville Elementary in Baltimore County, Hampstead Elementary in Carroll County, Mount View Middle School in Howard County, Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary in Montgomery County, Bayside Elementary in Queen Anne’s County and Cash Valley Elementary in Allegany County.

Teachers and administrators from the winning schools were honored during a ceremony where they were given Blue Ribbon flags to fly over their schools and they posed for pictures with Gov. Larry Hogan and state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon.

“You really are proof that with strong collaboration between dedicated educators and families and communities, we can close the achievement gap, prepare our students and give Maryland’s children a hope for a better future,” said Hogan, a Republican.

Hampstead Principal Arlene Moore said she was floating on a cloud after hearing the news Tuesday. She planned to share the news with the school at a winter concert assembly already planned for that afternoon.

“We’re one of the smallest schools in Carroll County right now, with 400 students, but our teachers work very hard,” she said.

They follow the motto “all means all,” she said, which means: No matter a student’s disability, where they come from or what they look like, it is educators’ job to help them succeed.

In addition to the Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools flag, the winning schools will receive a smart board and other interactive technology equipment.

Steve Wernick, director of elementary schools for Carroll County Public Schools, said the school system considers it a “fabulous honor to have one of our schools named a Blue Ribbon School."

Jacksonville Elementary, which opened 25 years ago, has 84% of its students passing the state standardized tests and is in the top 5% percent of schools in the state, said Debbie Miller, principal for the last five years.

“We are in the clouds right now. It is just fantastic,” Miller said.

When asked why her students are doing so well, she said: “Reading, reading, reading. We have focused on literacy." In addition, the entire fourth grade is taking an advanced curriculum in math.

The school also takes part in a program that has provided hundreds of breakfasts for homeless people in Baltimore City.

Mount View Middle, in Marriottsville, is also a five star school in the state’s new star rating system for public schools. More than 77% of Mount View students scored as proficient or higher in math, 79% of students in English Language Arts and 69.4% in science.

Hampstead has more than 73% of its students scoring proficient on state tests. It has inclusive special education classes in preschool and pre-kindergarten classes as well as programs for autistic students.

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The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program was started in the 1980s to recognize high-performing schools. The award has been criticized for not accounting for students’ socioeconomic status when judging school performance.

A 2000 Brookings Institute study examined Blue Ribbon schools in seven states and found that only 19 of 70 schools scored in the top 10 percent in reading and math when scores were adjusted for students’ income level.

Anne Hyslop, the Assistant Director for Policy Development and Government Relations for the Alliance for Excellent Education, said the award’s criteria has changed over the years as schools look more at socioeconomic data to compare students’ achievements.

She said states can now factor in whether a subset of the school’s population, such as its black or Hispanic population, is seeing significant growth in grade scores, even if it doesn’t have the same affect on the school’s overall scores.

“Those systems are incorporating a lot of additional measures," Hyslop said.

Both Maryland and the national Blue Ribbon awards now recognize schools that successfully close the gap in test scores or grades between students of different races or socioeconomic groups, as well as schools where a high percentage of students are meeting expectations on state reading and math exams.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Phil Davis and Catalina Righter contributed to this report.

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