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Ponderosa guns for national honor

by Brian Walker
| December 14, 2010 8:00 PM

POST FALLS - Ponderosa Elementary is one of just three schools statewide in the hunt for a Blue Ribbon.

The Post Falls school has been nominated for the national award under the U.S. Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

"It is a true testimony to the hard work and dedication of our Ponderosa family," said Kathy Baker, Ponderosa's principal. "A school has to be nominated by the state department based solely on solid data. This is not a self-nomination process.

"I was stunned when the announcement was made."

Schools can be nominated in one of two categories - High Performing or Improvement to High Levels.

"It's a huge honor just to be nominated," said Marcia Beckman, Title 1 director for the state department. "You have to rise to the top in the state among all schools."

Ponderosa was nominated for High Performing, while Southside Elementary in the Lake Pend Oreille District and Homedale Middle School were nominated for Improvement to High Levels.

The schools must now submit a rigorous application to a national panel and make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) on the ISAT (Idaho Standard Achievement Test) this spring to qualify.

Ninety-eight percent of last year's 103 Ponderosa fifth-graders - both overall and those economically disadvantaged based on the free or reduced lunch program - who took the reading ISAT last spring were proficient or better. Ninety-four percent of both groups were at least proficient in math.

Schools are expected to learn in May whether they receive the Blue Ribbon honor.

Winning the award after being nominated is far from automatic.

Only 16 Idaho schools and two from North Idaho have received the honor in 28 years of the program.

Mullan Junior-Senior High earned the honor in 1983-84 and Silver Hills Junior High in Osburn in 1984-85.

Schools could nominate themselves from 1982 to 2002, but state departments have nominated since based on test scores.

Blue Ribbon schools are honored in Washington, D.C., during a ceremony with national officials in the fall.

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