The Federal Department of Education recently named P.S. No. 14 School one of only nine “Blue Ribbon Schools” in New Jersey and one of only 320 such schools across the country.
In Hudson County, the only other school to receive the distinction was McNair High School in Jersey City. Both schools were awarded the designation under the rigorous requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Until this year, the only other public school in Hudson County to hold the distinction was Midtown Community School in Bayonne. Mustard Seed in Hoboken is also a Blue Ribbon School, but it is private.
Janice LoRe, principal of P.S. No. 14, will head to Washington, D.C., for the ceremony on Oct. 20 and 21. She said the school will hold a local ceremony on Dec. 12 to mark the distinction.
The No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that are either academically superior or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement to high levels. In addition to being honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. where each school receives a plaque and flag signifying their status, these schools serve as models for other schools throughout the nation.
The program requires schools to meet either of two assessment criteria. It recognizes schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those schools have to dramatically improve student performance in accordance with state assessment systems. The program also rewards schools that score in the top 10 percent on state assessments.
Principal Janice LoRe said that P.S. 14 received a letter last December from the U.S. Department of Education that it has been nominated, and was invited to apply. A total of 413 schools nationwide can be nominated.
To apply, the school had to supply more than five years of data, including test scores from the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA) and other information that would provide a snapshot of the school’s achievements.
The materials had to be submitted to the state Department of Education by the end of January, and then to the federal government by Feb. 15.
In early September, the school was notified that it had been named a Blue Ribbon School. “This is a national recognition for our school district, and a wonderful tribute the community,” LoRe said.
Of the schools submitted by each state, at least one-third must meet the first criterion of having 40 percent of the students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The program allows both elementary and secondary schools to be recognized in the same year.
“We’re very exited about this,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan. “It is a wonderful honor.”
Need a recommendation
“You have to be recommended from the state Department of Education,” McGeehan said. “They look at your test scores, management, and climate.”
“P.S. No. 14 obviously has the right recipe for success,” she said. “This is a combination – board administration, teachers, staff, and the input of the parents. Parent input is the key to our success.”
Setting benchmarks and raising expectations for the success of students, parents help students and give a boost to what the school district is doing.
“We have a great program, but it has to start with the parents,” she said.
Public School No. 14 recently went under a physical transformation as well, moving out of the former St. Joseph’s School for almost three years while a new school was constructed. Students moved into the new school last year.
Many in the gifted program
Always a host for the district’s gifted and talented programs, P.S. No. 14 has also become a community school. In the past, students were required to apply for entrance to the school, where gifted students received more challenging programs. While the school maintains this aspect, it has expanded to include neighborhood kids, starting with pre-kindergarten classes last year and adding a grade level each year until it hosts pre-k through sixth grades.
The school enrollment is about 390 students. Of these, 250 are currently enrolled in the gifted and talented program.
Gifted and talented programs are subdivided into a program for the intellectually gifted, an art program, a music program and a program called the psychomotor program – which emphasizes the connection between mind, body, thought and movement using gymnastics, dances and other elements.
Being named a Blue Ribbon School won’t stop P.S. No. 14 from continuing to make improvements, LoRe said.
“We are always looking for ways to improve by looking at our strengths and our weaknesses, and how to make them better,” she said.
This involves professional development meetings, where faculty members present strategies used in classrooms.
Teacher Zoe Gonzalez, known at Ms. G., said the school’s success is largely due to teamwork.
LoRe said teachers, parents, students, administrators and staff from the district central office work in conjunction to make everything possible.