Baltimore County's Sparks Elementary, Howard County's Clarksville Elementary and Anne Arundel County's Folger McKinsey Elementary have been named Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, the State Department of Education announced yesterday.
The schools are among six in the state that will represent Maryland in the national Blue Ribbon awards competition. They will be honored at a banquet in Annapolis in March.
The other three winners are Viers Mill Elementary in Montgomery County, Rock Hall Elementary in Kent County and Showell Elementary in Worcester County, according to a news release from the state education department.
Generally, award recipients are selected because they score in the top 10 percent of schools in the state on the Maryland School Assessment tests, or because they serve many children from low-income families and have demonstrated significant improvement on the annual standardized tests.
This year, Rock Hall Elementary met both criteria: Its MSA scores are in the top 10 percent, and it serves a large number of poor children, said William Reinhard, a state education department spokesman.
The three Baltimore-area winners and Showell Elementary were selected because they scored in the top 10 percent on the MSAs, Reinhard said. Viers Mill Elementary, which has a majority-Hispanic student body, was selected for its sharp improvement.
The principals at Sparks, Clarksville and Folger McKinsey elementaries attributed their success to dedicated teachers, involved parents and children who come to school ready to learn. Anne Arundel County schools Superintendent Eric J. Smith said such highly successful schools have "chemistry" among staff, parents and children.
"I use a saying to the staff at the beginning of the year: 'When you get to the top of the hill, you keep climbing,'" said Clarksville Principal Brad Herling. "We've had good scores for a long time here. We hold the students to high standards."
Folger McKinsey Principal Alison Lee said her school, in Severna Park, has parents "in every classroom every day." She said parents often work in small groups and one on one with children struggling at the earliest grades, so that by third grade almost all but those with severe learning disabilities are performing at or above grade level.
"They have the expectation for all kids to be successful," said Smith.
Sparks Principal Barbara Bisset said her school has 512 pupils and 225 trained parent volunteers who work in classrooms and around the building. She said she is especially proud of the teamwork to help children who are struggling as well as children who need an extra challenge. She also noted the school's many community-service projects.
"We knew we have good test scores," she said, "but I really think it's all the other pieces that make this such a good school."
Sun staff writer Hanah Cho contributed to this article.