HMA receives Blue Ribbon distinction
Highest honor given to schools by U.S. Dept. of Education
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.”