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Guest Blog by Dr. Karen Schulte, Superintendent, School District of Janesville, Wisconsin.

Kennedy Elementary School in Janesville, Wisconsin was awarded the National Blue Ribbon award. The results that Kennedy Elementary School earned for this national recognition is nice, but even more important is what it represents – high student achievement.

Kennedy Elementary school has accomplished something no other school has done in the School District of Janesville – EVER! Out of 138,000+ schools in the nation, 315 were picked this year to be a blue ribbon school.  To be named a Blue Ribbon School is to join an elite group. Over 6,000 of America’s schools have received this honor over the past 30 years.  No public school in the history of Janesville has EVER won this award.

What has made Kennedy School standout above the rest? What has made Kennedy School rise to the top to capture this prestigious national award?  In the most difficult school year in the history of American Education (2010-2011), how did this little school keep moving forward at such an incredible pace?

I know in talking with staff that every school in the School District of Janesville is dedicated to both student learning and also learning successful approaches to student learning. The key to success is learning from others……so what can be learned from the Kennedy experience?  As I spoke to staff and parents about what they felt were components for Kennedy’s success here is what I learned.

Quality Educators + Positive School Climate + the Kennedy Blueprint + Engagement = Success!

Quality Educators (the quality of the entire staff)

Kennedy School has high performing educators.  They are intelligent, have a strong work ethic and do not let students fail in the classroom. Kennedy School is a place where educators hold each other accountable.  If someone isn’t pulling their weight, pressure is put on them to work as hard as everyone else.  This makes everyone pulling hard in the same direction.  This does not only mean teachers who are the classroom leaders, but also an the incredible support staff that includes the following: the counselor, the Academic Learning Coach, the English Language Learners (ELL) teacher, the Music teacher, the Custodian, the Nurse and many others. These employees are dedicated to partnering with the classroom teacher to ensure this school runs like a well oiled machine.

Positive School Climate

Kennedy school is known for their positive school climate.  The staff believes in their students.  Staff and parents have told me that KENNEDY STAFF DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEIR KIDS.  When a student has a hard time learning, is being bullied, or just having a hard day the student is not left on their own.  The staff all help students work through their problems.   Kennedy staff love their students, take care them, challenge them and hold them accountable.

The Kennedy Blueprint

Kennedy School has a blueprint for improvement from the Building Coordinator’s Leadership Evaluation Measurement tool (LEM) to the school’s improvement plan: Kennedy has charted its path.  All School District of Janesville schools have this blueprint.  Kennedy stands out in that they do not veer off their path. They know where they are going and they stick to it.  This has brought them a high level of academic achievement.

Engagement

Students, staff and parents love Kennedy School!  Educators at Kennedy believe they are doing the most important work in the world.  That work is to nurture, support and educate every child.  They are driven, focused, and caring.  They want to do their best. They are engaged in educating their students.  Kennedy parents are engaged in and support the work being done at Kennedy School.  Kennedy staff and parent satisfaction survey results from the last three years support this.  Kennedy school consistently has some of the highest survey results in the district.  Students, staff and parents love Kennedy school.

When students, staff and parents are so excited about a school and want to support all that occurs there, SUCCESS happens and it happened here.  I know staff in the School District of Janesville is dedicated to student learning and the parents of the students want the very best for their children.  It is so nice to have Kennedy Elementary School right in the School District of Janesville to learn from.  I hope you will all join me in thanking the staff of Kennedy for their willingness to share their successes and in congratulating the staff, students and parents.

Congratulations Kennedy Blue Ribbon School!

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Special thanks to guest blogger Dr. Karen Schulte, Superintendent, School District of Janesville, Wisconsin.

* Kennedy School has an emrollment of 321 students, a free and reduced lunch rate of 42%, a diversity rate of 27% and an English Language Learners (ELL) rate of 11%.

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