BISMARCK, N.D., Sept. 16, 2022 – North Dakota State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Friday celebrated three North Dakota schools for earning the coveted designation of Blue Ribbon School: Linton Public School, Larimore Elementary School, and Roosevelt Elementary in Bismarck.
Linton is a prekindergarten through 12 school, with 242 students, located 65 miles southeast of Bismarck. Larimore Elementary, with 195 students in grades prekindergarten through 6, is 30 miles west of Grand Forks. Roosevelt Elementary, with 120 students in grades K-5, is in west-central Bismarck.
“If you are a Blue Ribbon school, it means the instruction the students are receiving is among the very best in the country,” Baesler said. “It also means the teachers and administrators at the school collaborated to do the work that’s required to earn this honor. It takes a great deal of effort to become a national Blue Ribbon school.”
Erin Huber, elementary principal at Linton Public School, said the significance of the Blue Ribbon award for her school “is so important, I don’t think it is measurable.”
“Every day in school, you work to find success, but it is not every day you get recognized for it, especially academically,” Huber said. “This is an opportunity to show we stand for more than the court and the field. All of those things are great, but all of the work our teachers do, and our kids do, in the classroom, the Blue Ribbon School celebrates that.”
Steve Swiontek, superintendent of the Larimore school district, said it was “extremely exciting to be named as one of the best elementary schools in the United States of America.” Larimore Principal Kylie Swanson said the news was a welcome acknowledgement of the instructional efforts of the school’s teachers, staff, students, and parents.
“We have been working hard to make some changes in our school to promote the love of learning,” Swanson said. “It really is fun to see that all of the hard work from teachers, staff and students have made an impact on student learning and student achievement.”
Changes at the Larimore school over the past five to eight years have included an increased emphasis on developing reading skills, using technology to support student learning – every student at Larimore has an iPad – and identifying students who need extra instruction and support, Swanson said.
Brenda Beiswenger, who is in her fifth year as principal of Roosevelt Elementary, said the Blue Ribbon award recognizes “the dedication, the collaboration, the effort that is put in to support and grow all of our learners.”
“As you reflect and think about the systems you have in place as well as looking at student data, you recognize what is working and what changes would benefit student learning,” Beiswenger said.
The U.S. Department of Education named the first group of Blue Ribbon schools in 1983, a year after the program was established. It recognizes public and private schools in which students have exceptional levels of academic achievement, or record substantial improvements in their students’ learning. Linton, Larimore and Roosevelt were all honored as “exemplary high-performing schools.”
Nationally, the Education Department recognized 297 Blue Ribbon schools in 2022. During the 2019-20 school year – the most recent data available – there were more than 128,000 public and nonpublic schools in the United States, with 49.4 million students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Schools that earn the Blue Ribbon designation must provide information about their students’ academic performance, teaching strategies, curriculum, school culture, and test results.
Swanson said the process took 35 to 40 hours to complete.
“It does give you the opportunity to step back and take a look at all of your accomplishments over the past year and the past five years,” she said. “When you’re doing it, you don’t really realize it at the time.”
Michael Schirado, principal of grades 7-12 in Linton Public Schools, said the award was an opportunity to “celebrate education, and how important it is for our students, and how much support they get. We can’t do that individually. We have to work as a team, our families, our students, our teachers. We have to provide the best for our students, because they deserve it.”
Beiswenger said the Roosevelt Elementary youngsters will be called together Friday to hear an explanation of the significance of winning a blue ribbon in any endeavor. “We’re going to talk about what it means to earn a blue ribbon, how it is an honor for doing something that takes a lot of hard work,” she said.
“We’ll have little stickers with the Blue Ribbon logo for their shirts,” she said of the planned assembly. “And I understand ice cream will be involved.”
Forty-eight North Dakota schools have earned the Blue Ribbon honor since the program’s inception, including five that have been honored twice: Divide County High in Crosby (1984 and 2006); Belmont/Phoenix Elementary in Grand Forks (1992 and 2005); Harwood Elementary in Harwood, in Cass County (2006 and 2019); Wyndmere Public School in Richland County, in North Dakota’s southeast corner (2013 and 2021); and Sweetwater Elementary in Devils Lake (2014 and 2020).
The nation’s Blue Ribbon schools “have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs,” Miguel Cardona, the U.S. education secretary, said Friday. “These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students’ lives.”