A big blue banner adorns the main doors of Our Redeemer Lutheran School. It proclaims Our Redeemer a Blue Ribbon school in bold font.
This was the first year the school has won the Blue Ribbon award, given to 286 schools, 50 of which were private or religious institutions, by the U.S. Department of Education. To be so recognized, a school must either have high scores on state standardized tests or bring under-performing students up for five straight years.
Our Redeemer won due to its high-achieving students in second, fourth, sixth and eighth grades. The first steps on the road to having students achieve those scores started in 1995.
Expanding for accreditation
Since its accreditation in the National Lutheran School Commission in 1995, the school began a curriculum overhaul that culminated in its Strive to Excel program, Principal Mary Irish said. The program added full-time teachers for Spanish and physical education and expanded the reading, science, art and early childhood programs.
After-school programs were added as well, including music, art, drama and even a weaving class.
The school has maintained its accreditation since 1995, applying for and receiving reaccreditation four times.
That, coupled with the teacher's dedication to their students, is really what brought Blue Ribbon status to the school, Irish said. "We do it because we love kids, we love the Lord, and a strong academic education is part and parcel of what we do here, but being able to tie the Biblical world view is very huge," she added.
Looking to the future
A school can only win the Blue Ribbon award once every five years, but Irish is preparing for another in 2018. Maintaining accreditation as well as adding pilot programs, she hopes, will lead the school to another Blue Ribbon.
A few teachers have dabbled in, and the school will be taking a serious look at, flipping classrooms. The flip is that students, while at home, watch video of their teachers instructing them and while at school do their work.
Another program that might take flight if given enough attendance would be a one-hour classroom for children ages 2 and 3. The early-learners program could get its start as early as this spring.
"The minute you're satisfied with where you are, you start going backward," Irish said. "You have to always go forward."
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