Every year the U.S. Department of Education awards “blue ribbons” to the nation’s top schools that demonstrate extraordinary success in achieving high standards and making notable strides in closing the achievement gap. Yesterday Education Secretary John King announced that one of those schools was Excellence Girls Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the first charter school in Brooklyn ever to garner this honor.
Blue Ribbons were awarded this year to 329 schools out of nearly 100,000 in the nation, or one third of one percent.
“National Blue Ribbon Schools are proof that we can prepare every child for college and meaningful careers, King said in a video message to honorees. “Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices—professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems—making you shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation.”
Excellence Girls Charter School, part of the Uncommon Schools charter network, is a K-8 school where 98 percent of the students are either African American or Hispanic and 78 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The school, founded in 2009, outperforms surrounding districts with similar demographics every year. For example, at nearby Marcus Garvey Elementary School (P.S. 044) 22% of students scored proficient or advanced proficient in math. At Excellence Girls, 94% did, ranking it 15th out of 2,500 New York state elementary schools.
From the press release:
“It is an honor to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school,” said Nikki Bowen, the principal of the [K-4] Excellence Girls Elementary Academy. “This award confirms all the work that we’ve been doing with our scholars to build their confidence and inspire them to become fierce females. We want our girls to know that their voice matters and they can become anything they dream of.”
Young students who have come to the school shy, and academically behind their grade level, and struggling to fit in, have within months found their voice, caught up academically and grown into leaders. Families note that what their daughters are learning in school will help them grow into leaders of the world.
The school strives to create a community of empowered and kind young female leaders who are the architects of their own lives, the principal said. Using a curriculum focused around the “fierce females” who have come before them, the mission of the school is to develop young women of confidence who are not only prepared for college, but also prepared to be thoughtful, kind, empowered citizens of the world, she said.
As early as Kindergarten, they are taught to be empathetic and supportive of their classmates, to speak out and share their opinions and to think not only about their own success, but the success of their classmates, Bowen said.
The majority of girls at Excellence will be the first in their family to attend college.