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Bloomington Elementary wins coveted Blue Ribbon award

Sept. 15, 2010 at 4:15 a.m.
Updated Sept. 18, 2010 at 4:18 a.m.

Ashley Garcia, 9, and Seth Wilmoth, 8, checkout books in the Bloomington Elementary School library. The school believes the library, exemplary standardized test scores and dedicated staff helped them win the Blue Ribbon Award.

WHAT IS A BLUE RIBBON SCHOOL?The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools. The schools are selected based on one of two criteria:

Schools that dramatically improve student performance to high levels on state tests;

Schools whose students achieve in the top 10 percent of their state on state tests.

The winning Texas schools were recommended by an intra-agency committee at the Texas Education Agency that examined student achievement statistics for the more than 8,000 public school and charter campuses in the state. The schools selected have demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap, and each school has an economically disadvantaged population of 40 percent or greater.

Source: Texas Education Agency

When Karen Cranfill, a library aide, purged old books from Bloomington Elementary, she discovered the newest books were nearly 30 years old.

"I think we had books that were from 1904 when we purged," she said.

Cranfill, who attended the elementary more than 30 years ago, even found her own name written in some of the books' loan history cards.

A few years later, the library is crammed full of new books, computers and audio books, something staff believe - along with exemplary Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test scores - helped them with the national Blue Ribbon School award.

"It was like winning the Super Bowl in education," said Principal Israel Salinas.

To win the prestigious award, schools must be nominated by the Texas Education Agency. Afterward, they compete in a rigorous application process with more than 400 schools nationwide through the U.S. Department of Education.

Bloomington Elementary was one of 25 schools in the state to be recognized. To qualify for the award, the school must have standardized test scores in the top 10 percent of the state, and more than 40 percent of their students must be economically disadvantaged.

More than 90 percent of the school's 330 students are economically disadvantaged, and the school's standardized test ratings for the past two years were exemplary.

Salinas believes the award came about because of the ongoing efforts of teachers and staff.

"It was kind of like our secret," Salinas said. "We knew we were doing good, and now it's going to get out that Bloomington is doing good."

The award also recognizes schools that show improvements like the elementary's new library.

Salinas and another teacher will travel to Washington, D.C., in November where they will receive a plaque and flag for the award.

School staff believe the award could not have come at a better time. The district is completing projects for its $8 million bond package, which includes a new media center for the school and paved parking for teachers.

Improvements within the district, along with the Blue Ribbon award have brought a new excitement to the school.

"It boosts morale. It really does," said Louise Torres, a third-grade teacher who will be accompanying Salinas to Washington, D.C., "The kids have already been asking when is the library going to open, which makes us feel good. They enjoy spending time on campus and they enjoy spending time with the adults. It's just awesome."



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