HMA re­ceives Blue Rib­bon dis­tinc­tion

High­est honor given to schools by U.S. Dept. of Ed­u­ca­tion

Porterville Recorder - - FRONT PAGE - recorder@porter­villere­

Har­mony Mag­net Academy in Strath­more is one of the 342 schools in the United States that were named 2017 Blue Rib­bon Schools Thurs­day morn­ing. It is the high­est na­tional honor given by the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to a school.

Har­mony, which is part of the Porter­ville Uni­fied School District, was nom­i­nated for the award by Cal­i­for­nia based on the over­all qual­ity of their pro­grams, as well as stan­dard­ized test per­for­mance, and the use of prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion to re­in­force math and sci­ence con­cepts.

“The ef­fort and deter­mi­na­tion of our fac­ulty and staff have pro­duced a cul­ture of high achieve­ment,” said Jeff Brown, Har­mony prin­ci­pal. “There is no sub­sti­tute for vic­tory. What a win for our staff, and it’s a trib­ute to our stu­dents as well.”

The Na­tional Blue Rib­bon Schools Pro­gram ac­cepts nom­i­na­tions of both pub­lic and non­pub­lic schools that meet one

of two cri­te­ria: Ex­em­plary High Per­form­ing Schools are among their state’s high­est per­form­ing schools as mea­sured by state assess­ments or na­tion­ally normed tests. Har­mony was awarded the Blue Rib­bon des­ig­na­tion as an Ex­em­plary Achieve­ment Gap-clos­ing School, which are among their state’s high­est per­form­ing schools in clos­ing achieve­ment gaps be­tween a school’s sub­groups and all stu­dents over the past five years.

Of the two cat­e­gories, Brown feels that the gap-clos­ing achieve­ment is more of an ac­com­plish­ment, be­cause it re­quires both deter­mi­na­tion and in­no­va­tion to over­come chal­lenges to learn­ing.

Har­mony’s stu­dent pop­u­la­tion con­sists of 61 per­cent so­cio-eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents, and 44 per­cent have been re­clas­si­fied from English lan­guage learn­ers. This is a ma­jor rea­son its stu­dents score higher on the state Cal­i­for­nia English Lan­guage Devel­op­ment Test (CELDT) used to mea­sure English pro­fi­ciency.

The stu­dent pop­u­la­tion is 64 per­cent of His­panic, which is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of PUSD de­mo­graph­ics. Re­search in­di­cates that

His­panic males have a much lower col­lege en­trance rate than His­panic fe­males. As a whole, Har­mony pro­grams support His­panic males at a much higher level than that of the na­tional av­er­age. Out of a to­tal of 527 grad­u­at­ing stu­dents in a five-year sum­mary, 517 of those stu­dents chose to at­tend two- or fouryear col­leges, or pur­sue mil­i­tary or tech­ni­cal school post-sec­ondary op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Brown points to his school’s Linked Learn­ing ef­forts as a driv­ing force be­hind the school’s suc­cess. Linked Learn­ing com­bines col­legeready aca­demics with ca­reer tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion and work-based learn­ing. Har­mony uses its Engi­neer­ing and Per­form­ing Arts path­ways to in­cor­po­rate Linked Learn­ing, where stu­dents see di­rect ap­pli­ca­tion of STEAM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing, Arts, and Math­e­mat­ics) con­cepts and are ex­posed to pre­vi­ously unimag­ined col­lege and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties by turn­ing their ed­u­ca­tion into a per­son­ally rel­e­vant, en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s not just the­ory here,” said Brown. “Stu­dents are asked to com­plete a per­for­mance task to prove they un­der­stand through prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The Na­tional Blue Rib­bon Schools Pro­gram

was cre­ated in 1982 to honor schools that have achieved high lev­els of stu­dent achieve­ment or made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in clos­ing the achieve­ment gap among stu­dent sub­groups. One-third of all schools nom­i­nated in any state must serve stu­dent pop­u­la­tions of at least 40 per­cent from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds. El­i­gi­ble schools must have been in ex­is­tence for five years and can­not have re­ceived the award within the five prior years.

Since its in­cep­tion, the Na­tional Blue Rib­bon Schools Pro­gram has be­stowed recog­ni­tion on more than 8,500 schools. On Nov. 6 and 7, the Sec­re­tary and the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion will cel­e­brate with these honorees at an awards cer­e­mony in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“Na­tional Blue Rib­bon Schools are ac­tive demon­stra­tions of pre­par­ing ev­ery child for a bright fu­ture,” said U.S. Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy Devos to the honorees. “You are vi­sion­ar­ies, in­no­va­tors and lead­ers. You have much to teach us: some of you per­son­al­ize stu­dent learn­ing, oth­ers en­gage par­ents and com­mu­ni­ties in the work and life of your lo­cal schools and still oth­ers de­velop strong and for­ward-think­ing lead­ers from among your teach­ing staff.”

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