At Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Compton students learn to play the piano, take an animation classes after school — where they illustrate their own stories — and attend math academy on Saturdays to reinforce concepts they learned during the week. Attending College is their goal. At nearby Ardella B. Tibby Elementary School, students also are pushed to achieve — every student reads at or above grade level.
The exceptional efforts of the schools and achievements of their students is why both schools recently received a National Blue Ribbon School Award, the most prestigious award in education from the U.S. Department of Education. In doing so, they made history, becoming the first schools in the Compton Unified School District to receive national acknowledgment of their overall academic excellence.
Mario Marcos, principal of Jefferson Elementary, recalls walking into every classroom at the school last month to make the announcement.
“I saw tears from some of teachers because of the emotion,” Marcos said. “The students knew that it was big news. Their hands went up and they were cheering. There was a lot of pride to belong to a successful school.”
Similarly, two miles away students and faculty at Tibby Elementary School were overjoyed as they watched the announcement live stream as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named their school among the 337 other elementary, middle, and high schools across the nation.
“We were extremely proud of our students and their extraordinary accomplishment,” Ontrece Ellerbe, principal of Tibby Elementary School said. “This award demonstrates that when students, whatever their background are exposed to high quality instruction from a committed staff on a consistent basis, there is no limit to what they can achieve.”
Tibby and Jefferson Elementary were among 26 schools in California to receive the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award. In recognition of the honor, both schools will receive a plaque and flag to display their National Blue Ribbon School status as a symbol of the exemplary teaching and learning that takes place daily at the school.
Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has bestowed the National Blue Ribbon School award to more than 7,500 of schools across the country. Every year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among students.
The National Blue Ribbon School Award is the latest title to be added to the list of honors for both Tibby and Jefferson Elementary. Earlier this year, both schools were named a California Distinguished School, based on their students’ high test scores on the California Standards Test; they also received the Title 1 Academic Achievement Award, which is given to schools with high numbers of children from low-income families. (Title 1, is a federal program that provides funds to schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to obtain high quality instruction and meet the state’s academic standards.)
As part of the award, the principal and a teacher from each school will attend the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award reception in Washington DC in November.
Principal Marcos hopes his students will take this experience and apply it to their life and future careers.
“Neither geography nor socioeconomics should determine how successful you can be,” Marcos said. “It’s all about effort and determination. If students put their mind towards achieving goals every day, they will find a way to achieve their dreams –it’s possible.”