Feds hang a blue ribbon on Muskego school
Country Meadows earns high honor for educational performance
Muskego — Country Meadows School has been named one of just six schools in Wisconsin as a 2013 Blue Ribbon School for exemplary high performance by the U.S. Department of Education.
This is the nation's highest honor for schools, Muskego-Norway School District officials said. Only 286 schools across the nation were recognized this year for either exemplary performance or for outstanding improvement.
While some of the schools were honored for achievement and others for improvement, all have certain things in common, according to the Blue Ribbon School website.
"Their leaders not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, they stay close to the real action of teaching and learning. ... Data from many sources are used diligently to adapt teaching and learning to support every student," the website states.
Rising student achievement in reading and math based on statewide testing over the past few years was a major contributor to the recognition, Country Meadows Principal Gary Goelz said in a news release announcing the award.
Country Meadows, which has classes for kindergarten through fourth grade, exceeded expectations last year in the latest school report card issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Achievement in reading and math make up a portion of that report card. Country Meadows was less than half a point on a scale of 100 away from significantly exceeding expectations, the highest category.
Before the DPI started issuing report cards two years ago, Country Meadows brought up its reading scores on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam to 94.4 percent proficient or advanced in 2011 from only 87.6 percent in 2008. Similarly, it brought up math to 93.5 percent proficient or advanced from 89.5 in 2008.
Significant improvements were also noted in the Blue Ribbon designation in reducing the achievement gap between students with and without disabilities, said Superintendent Kelly Thompson.
Those successes, Thompson said Monday, were partly the result of what she called "ongoing, relentless, professional development in reading."
She also pointed to the principal meeting with every teacher three times a year to discuss the results of his classroom observations as crucial to the improvements.
Overall, Country Meadows also is focused on developing critical thinking and deeper-level questioning, both subjects that are part of every staff meeting, Thompson said.
Added to all that is the focus on every student, and not just academically. The school doesn't neglect character building as it emphasizes respect, responsibility, safety and honesty, she said.
But it's a long and patient process. District officials noted how that process is ongoing in nature.
"This award is not something that is won, but rather earned, School Board President Jim Schaefer said in the news release. "It is a fantastic recognition of the many great things happening every day at Country Meadows and throughout our district."
Said Thompson: "The 2013 National Blue Ribbon recognition is a testament to the teaching and learning culture that exists in Muskego-Norway."
She paid tribute to the students and staff at Country Meadows for what she called their aggressive pursuit of providing a high-achieving student learning environment and praised parents and the community for their support.
As principal, Goelz noted the significance of the honor and how others might view Country Meadows as a model.
"We are honored and humbled by the recognition," Goelz said. "It's an opportunity for districts throughout the state and nation to take a closer look at the amazing learning experiences happening every day for students at Country Meadows and throughout the Muskego-Norway School District."
Other schools named Blue Ribbon Schools this year included Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Wauwatosa.
— Jane Ford-Stewart
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