Fallston Middle, Harford Day named National Blue Ribbon schools

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This story is updated from a previous version

Fallston Middle School and the private Harford Day School in Bel Air were named 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools on Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Fallston Middle is one of six public schools from around the state receiving the National Blue Ribbon this year, according to the Maryland Department of Education. The six were awarded Maryland Blue Ribbon School status last December.

Harford Day is the only private school in the state to be named a National Blue Ribbon School, according to MSDE.

Blue Ribbon Schools are recognized on the basis of rigorous state and national requirements for high achievement and significant improvement, according to an MSDE news release.

“The students in each of these schools are high achievers in reading and mathematics, and many serve a significant number of economically disadvantaged students,” the release states.

Fallston Middle School was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School last December by the U.S. Department of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education, and students, staff and administrators celebrated the win in June.

“As the principal of Fallston Middle School, I am proud to accept this award on behalf of the faculty, staff and students,” FMS Principal Dr. Tony Bess said in a statement released Tuesday by Harford County Public Schools. “Winning this award is validation of the high-quality instruction our teachers implement daily, the outstanding support we receive from our friends in the PTA and families in the Fallston community, exceptional elementary feeder schools and students who aspire to do great things in life and trust us to help them achieve their goals.”

“While we are ecstatic to receive this national recognition, we will not rest on our laurels; we will continue to explore opportunities to improve,” Bess said. “To that end, we have increased the number of participants in our Best Buddies Club and we are about to embark on a quest for Green School status.”

“I want to thank the faculty, staff, and students for making Fallston Middle School a welcoming environment and a great place to learn,” he said.

Harford Day School earned its recognition through the Council of American Private Education, or CAPE, which then nominates schools to the U.S. Department of Education, according to Ashleigh Wilkes, interim head of school for Harford Day.

“Our [school] community has always valuated our high-quality educational programs that we provided to our students, and we’re very happy to celebrate this recognition in the broader community,” Wilkes said Tuesday.

Harford Day School, which was founded in 1957, has 293 students from pre-kindergarten, which is available to children as young as 3, to eighth grade, Wilkes said.

Private schools must be among the top 15 percent of private schools in the nation in terms of students’ reading and math scores on standardized assessments to earn Blue Ribbon status. Wilkes said, however, that the recognition covers the “whole school,” beyond test scores, with aspects such as instructional practices and incorporation of technology into learning.

Wilkes, who has been at Harford Day for 16 years as a teacher, lower school head and interim head of school, said it is known for its emphasis on “strong character traits and creative problem-solving experiences” for students.

The school recently opened an innovation lab where students can work in “hands-on ways” to bring their STEM-related projects to life. Harford Day also emphasizes the arts in education through visual arts, theater, music and dance, Wilkes said.

“Everyone is so pleased and just happy that we’re being recognized for the wonderful program that we have here at Harford Day,” she said. “It’s been a nice recognition for the hard work that the faculty puts in and the wonderful students that we have.”

Also receiving national honors were West Towson Elementary School in Baltimore County, Urbana Elementary School in Frederick County, Waterloo Elementary School in Howard County and Bannockburn Elementary School and Luxmanor Elementary School in Montgomery County.

“Education is our number one priority, and these seven schools represent the best of what Maryland has to offer — exceptional teachers working with dedicated students to achieve great success in the classroom and beyond,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “We congratulate the leadership, teachers, students, parents and everyone involved with these outstanding schools on this distinguished honor.”

Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, said outstanding teaching is at the heart of these schools’ success.

“This honor tells us a great deal about a school and how its teachers and administrators work together to help every student shine,” Salmon said in a statement. “We celebrate the innovation taking place at these schools. Congratulations to our National Blue Ribbon School students and staff.”

The U.S. Education Department invited National Blue Ribbon School nominations from top education officials in every state. Last year, 329 schools were recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools based on their overall academic excellence.

National honors will be awarded on Nov. 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C., where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will congratulate the Blue Ribbon recipients.

“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” DeVos said. “Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

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