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Education Secretary Honors Phoenix School

Question: Why is a department of the federal government overseeing public education in this country giving awards to private schools? The answer can be found in a press release from the U. S. Office of Education:

On July 28, 2002, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that schools singled out for national honors will now reflect the goals of our nation's new education reforms for high standards and accountability. Paige announced the new program at a meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The No Child Left Behind—Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their states or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

"In keeping with the principles of the No Child Left Behind Act, we will reward schools based on student achievement results, not process," Paige said. "Schools chosen for the Blue Ribbon will be ones that are meeting our mission to ensure every child learns, and no child is left behind. Blue Ribbon recipients will be national models of excellence that others can learn from."

Note:. Visit the Madison School District website, and you will see that their tagline is Setting the Standard in the Educational Marketplace!

PHOENIX - U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige on Friday visited Phoenix's Madison Heights Elementary School where students honored him with patriotic songs and their rapt attention and he honored the school with the 2004 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon.

The award, given to private and public schools, is named after the Bush administration's cornerstone education law that pushes schools to improve learning, especially among students who live in poverty and traditionally lag behind.

Madison Heights was one of five Arizona schools to be named model schools by the U.S. Department of Education. They include Gilbert's Highland High School, Mesa's Longfellow Elementary, and Tucson's Ocotillo Elementary in the Sunnyside Unified District and St. Cyril Catholic School.

Madison Heights Principal Denise Donovan said the school earned the recognition by dramatically improving student standardized test scores during the past three years. At Madison Heights, nearly half of the 410 students live in poverty and 16 percent are just learning English.

Donovan explained the honor to her kindergartners through fourth-graders this way: "We hiked and hiked and hiked and we've reached the peak. And now someone who reports directly to the president is coming to see how the students at our school learn."

Paige, a trim, grandfatherly figure in a gray suit and black cowboy boots, visited classrooms and quietly asked the children about words they were writing or about their missing front teeth. A child in the hallway greeted him with a "Hi, President."

He congratulated the teachers and parents and students during an assembly, even praising the maintenance crew for the immaculate rooms and floors.

"Madison Heights demonstrates what we have as a national vision," Paige told the assembly. "We want to point this out as a model."

Although the award comes with no money, the recognition was enough to draw a gasp from Madison's assembled children and give a boost to the school's teachers. Kindergarten teacher Monae Jensen found out on Tuesday that Paige was visiting the school and would stop in her classroom.

"It makes me so proud to work here," Jensen said, as teachers, parents, staff members and children filed into the school's auditorium to hear the announcement.

"We are all a team," Jensen said. "It's not only us. It's the students and the parents. I get goose bumps."

— Pat Kossan
Arizona Republic


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