School: Greenwood Elementary - Receives Elite Award (2022)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Cardona, Green, Lilly, Schlough

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 9/21/2022

Greenwood Elementary Named National Blue Ribbon School (2022)

Shown are students and staff at Greenwood Elementary School, District administrator and former elementary Principal Joe Green said it was the combination of great staff, students and parents that led to the school being successful and receiving the National Blue Ribbon School designation. Submitted photo

By Valorie Brecht

Greenwood Elementary School has received an elite award among the nation’s schools.

In a Sept. 16 announcement, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized 297 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2022. Greenwood Elementary was among eight Wisconsin schools chosen. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, as shown by student test scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates.

“It’s a great honor,” said former Greenwood Elementary principal and current district administrator Joe Green.

“It’s amazing – I’ve been in education 28 years and have worked in and visited a lot of schools, and I can definitely say that this honor is well-deserved,” said current school principal Shane Lilly.
Greenwood Elementary was named an Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing School, meaning it is among Wisconsin’s highest performing schools in terms of closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

“We’ve shown tremendous growth in closing gaps in reading and math, so we’ve been able to take the kids that were at a ‘minimal’ or ‘basic’ level and bring them up to ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced,’” said Green.

Part of that was due to a change in reading and math curriculum. In 2017, Green’s first year with the district, Greenwood Elementary changed to Math Expressions curriculum.

“The reason [we changed] was the achievement was not great, and the teachers had kind of been doing their own thing. So, we wanted that consistency and to have a system in place for growth. This put in a solid framework with good professional development. And we’ve seen phenomenal growth since implementing it, and that growth has continued. The last seven or eight years, our math scores have consistently improved,” said Green.

The school district also has spent three years using the American Reading Company (ARC) curriculum. Greenwood uses ARC for grades K-11 and was one of the first school districts in the state to do so. ARC has recommended other school districts visit Greenwood as a model school. Some neighboring districts have started using the curriculum.

This all-encompassing English and language arts curriculum emphasizes letting the student choose which texts they want to read based on their interests.

“We’ve gone away from a one-size-fits-all approach. We try to meet the students where they’re at, by giving them texts of their interest. It’s huge, especially for our kids that don’t consider themselves good readers. The growth has been fantastic in reading and writing,” said Green.
Along with implementing quality curricula, Lilly said the district has also taken care to keep class sizes small to aid in learning. This year, there is one class of 22 students and the rest are 15 or less.

“I came from a district where there were 25 to 32 students per class. I think there is strength in smaller numbers. The teachers get to know the students and their needs that much better… So, thanks to the school board and their commitment to keep class sizes small—it makes a big impact,” he said.

Although things like choice of curriculum and class size are no doubt important, both Lilly and Green recognized that ultimately a school is only going to be as effective as the people who are part of it.
“The staff, hands-down, are our strongest asset. We have staff that are dedicated to making sure our kids succeed. We also have unbelievably supportive parents and good kids,” said Green.

“The students and staff are awesome… You need to have a good foundation and we have that at Greenwood. The teachers have high expectations for the kids and the kids work toward that,” Lilly agreed. “I feel honored to be a part of what’s happening here.”

Green and Lilly plan to hold a local ceremony to celebrate the award, with the date to be determined.
Also, Title I teacher Amanda Schlough and district librarian and assessment coordinator Michele Green will represent the school in an official award ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nov. 3-4. These two individuals assisted in completing the district’s lengthy award application, including 16 essays detailing student demographics, staff makeup, school setup, instructional strategies and more.

More about the National Blue Ribbon Schools

National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation. A National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing a school’s entryway or on a flagpole is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning. 

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department of Education invites nominations for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, the Department of Defense Education Activity and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

With its 39th cohort, the National Blue Ribbon School Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in striving for—and attaining—exemplary achievement.

“I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon School award for creating vibrant, welcoming and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential and achieve their dreams,” said Cardona.

“As our country continues to recover from the pandemic, we know that our future will only be as strong as the education we provide to all of our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional and mental health needs. These schools show what is possible to make an enduring, positive difference in students’ lives.”




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