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Mitchell's G.B. Rogers named one of nation's top schools

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Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary in Mitchell was recognized Tuesday as one of the nation’s top schools.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced 286 schools nationwide as 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools, based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement.

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G.B. Rogers is believed to be the first Mitchell school ever to receive the distinction and is among four South Dakota schools to receive the honor this year. The other three 2013 South Dakota Blue Ribbon schools are Faulkton Elementary School, a public school in Faulkton; Harvey Dunn Elementary School, a public school in Sioux Falls; and St. Joseph School, a private school in Pierre.

Vicki Harmdierks, G.B. Rogers principal, watched a webcast of Duncan’s announcement Tuesday morning with students. She said a “perfect mix” of efforts by the school’s teachers, support staff, parents, volunteers, parent-teacher organization, students and others make the school worthy of the award.

“This award isn’t by accident,” Harmdierks said.

The 436 students at G.B. Rogers — one of three public and two private elementary schools in the city — come mostly from the north-northeast portion of the Mitchell School District. Superintendent Joe Graves said he’s “delighted” by the award.

“It’s great news — an affirmation of the commitment and the focus we’ve put on student achievement here at the Mitchell School District,” he said.

In the voluminous application for the award, many of the school’s positive traits were mentioned. Highlights included the school’s Boost-Up program, which utilizes physical movement to prepare children for learning; and a score of 94.45 out of a possible 100 on the most recent School Performance Index assessment.

Susan Dodd, a teacher at G.B. Rogers Elementary, said the staff at the school works hard to lay the foundation for students’ continued success.

“I’m overwhelmed that our school is at this status,” Dodd said. “We work hard every day, but we don’t realize that this is what the end result is. It’s really exciting.”

The U.S. Department of Education will honor the nation’s 236 public and 50 private 2013 Blue Ribbon schools at a recognition ceremony Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C. Harmdierks said she plans to attend.

In its 31-year history, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed the award on nearly 7,500 of America’s schools.

“Excellence in education matters and we should honor the schools that are leading the way to prepare students for success in college and careers,” Secretary Duncan said in a news release. “National Blue Ribbon schools represent examples of educational excellence, and their work reflects the belief that every child in America deserves a world-class education.”

The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. The first category is Exemplary High Performing, in which schools are recognized among their state’s highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

Harmdierks said that’s the category for which G.B. Rogers was recognized. The second category is Exemplary Improving, in which schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

To select National Blue Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Education requested nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools.

A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction.

The secretary of education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Harmdierks said G.B. Rogers Elementary was nominated in November by the South Dakota Department of Education.

Five years of data were submitted, and the school was required to post good test scores at the end of the last school year, she said.

The school plans some activities next month to celebrate, including a 2:15 p.m. Oct. 8 assembly, plus a student day with inflatables tentatively scheduled for Oct. 11.

“I’m just proud of my staff,” Harmdierks said. “We have an amazing staff and an amazing group of students.” </span>

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"316219","attributes":{"alt":"Avia Haley (front) and Samantha Gerlach, fifth-graders at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic) ","class":"media-image","height":"340","style":"line-height: 1.538em;","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"480"}}]]The National Blue Ribbon Schools award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students' levels of achievement.

The program recognizes schools in one of two performance categories. The first category is "Exemplary High Performing," in which schools are recognized among their state's highest performing schools, as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests. The second category is "Exemplary Improving," in which schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels as measured by state assessments or nationally-normed tests.

To select National Blue Ribbon Schools, the Department requested nominations from the top education official in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates private schools. A total of 420 schools nationwide may be nominated, with allocations determined by the numbers of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction. The secretary of education invites nominated schools to submit an application for possible recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.

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