St. John the Evangelist School Named National Blue Ribbon School!

On Thursday, Sept. 28, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized St. John the Evangelist School (SJE) as a National Blue Ribbon Schools (NBRS) for 2017. The recognition is based on the school’s overall academic performance. The Long Green Valley school was one of four Archdiocese of Baltimore schools, one of 13 Maryland schools and one of 342 schools, public and private, nationwide named as National Blue Ribbon Schools.

“National Blue Ribbon Schools are active demonstrations of preparing every child for a bright future,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the honorees in a live online broadcast. “You are visionaries, innovators and leaders. You have much to teach us: some of you personalize student learning, others engage parents and communities in the work and life of your local schools and still others develop strong and forward-thinking leaders from among your teaching staff.” 

In anticipation of the announcement, St. John the Evangelist School’s (SJE) students gathered in the church hall to watch the live broadcast from the U.S. Department of Education. SJE students waited ten full minutes after Secretary DeVos’s introduction to see their school photo and their school name appear onscreen. They erupted in cheers and applause and kicked up their heels with their school eagle mascot to the sounds of Kool and the Gang’s Celebrate song. Teachers and 8th grade students popped confetti poppers and volunteer parents distributed blue balloons (NBRS and SJE color), and shortly thereafter, blue raspberry Italian ice to all the students and faculty. Click here to see video of SJE student reaction

“To even be permitted to submit an application, schools must rank in the top 15 percent in the nation in English language arts and mathematics as measured by a nationally normed test,” explained Advancement Director Eileen Phelps. “Additionally schools must demonstrate excellence in multiple other areas including instructional methods, school culture, engaging community, professional development and/or school leadership.”

“I’m honored that we were recognized because our philosophy is that all children should have an opportunity to have a Catholic education,” Principal Christine Blake said after the celebration. She noted that the process took three years to complete. Blake credited St. John School’s differentiated instruction, i.e. modifying content, process and product, as a major reason for the award. She further explained that the school’s small size (one homeroom per grade) and country setting gives the school a close, safe, family-like feeling and means students don’t “fall through the cracks.”

Teachers use a variety of methods both to help children who are struggling and to challenge those who have mastered the material, according to Blake. These include special programs in math and reading that allow students to work at their own pace, hands-on learning and flexible grouping so children don’t get pigeon-hold academically.

Middle school students collaborate in their studies rather than relying on rote memorization. “They’re becoming thinkers. They’re asking questions. They’re creating. They’re listening to one another. It’s called collaboration and it’s an essential workplace skill,” she said.

A total of 420 schools nationwide can be nominated annually, with state allocations determined by the number of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction, ranging from a minimum of three schools to a maximum of 35. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates up to 50 non-public schools, like SJE, annually. Since 1982 the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed this recognition on only 8,500 schools of nearly 60,000 schools nationwide. On Nov. 6-7, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with these honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.