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Lewis Central High School named National Blue Ribbon School
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Lewis Central High School named National Blue Ribbon School

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Lewis Central High School has been named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

The designation was announced at 10 a.m. by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

School officials will represent LCHS at a two-day awards ceremony on Nov. 4-5 in Washington, D.C., where they will hear from other esteemed educators, share best practices with each other and celebrate their hard-won achievements, according to a press release. There, they will receive a plaque and flag to signify its exemplary status.

“Being selected as a National Blue Ribbon School is proof that having high expectations yields excellence,” Principal Joel Beyenhof said in the press release. “At LCHS, we believe in the three R’s for learning for all students: relationships and resilience will yield results. This award is the result of the hard work of our entire LCHS school community.”

Superintendent Eric Knost called the award “an extremely high honor.”

“It really does speak volumes about our high school,” he said.

National Blue Ribbon Schools are on education’s cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices from professional learning communities and project-based learning to social and emotional learning and positive behavior systems, the press release stated. Schools are nominated by the state department of education and then complete a comprehensive application about school practices.

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“It was real exciting for me to get a phone call from the Department of Education last spring,” Knost said.

Schools may be nominated as Exemplary High Performing — among the top schools in a state — or Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing — schools making the fastest progress in their state in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. LC was nominated as Exemplary High Performing.

Collective work has resulted in a steady growth in student achievement and graduation rates from 83.6% in 2011 to 97.8% in 2020 and ranking as one of the highest-rated high schools in the state of Iowa, based on the Iowa School Performance Profile.

Other Iowa schools named National Blue Ribbon Schools were Bedford Elementary School in Bedford Community School District, Pleasant Valley High School of Pleasant Valley Community School District in Bettendorf, Hills Elementary School in Iowa City Community School District and Spencer Middle School in Spencer Community School District.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes outstanding public and non-public schools, according to the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program website. The program celebrates school excellence, school transformation and the elimination of achievement gaps between student subgroups.

Five Iowa schools were among 325 nationwide that earned the honor. Along with LC, the other Iowa schools were Bedford Elementary School in the Bedford Community School District in Bedford; Pleasant Valley High School, Pleasant Valley Community School District in Bettendorf; Hills Elementary School, Iowa City Community School District in Hills and Spencer Middle School, Spencer Community School District in Spencer.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” Cardona said in a release.

Though winning schools include urban, rural and suburban; large and small; traditional and innovative and serve students of every social, economic and ethnic background, they all share core elements of effective schools, the website stated. 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. Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures. Faculty are supported by mentoring and professional development and have time to coordinate their work. Data from many sources drive adaptations to support every student. Families and educators work together in trust.

— The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.

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