Skip to content
News

Seven Philadelphia-area schools win National Blue Ribbon honor

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the winners Tuesday.

Shaterra Godwin, a paraprofessional at Penn Alexander, releases confetti during a celebration of the school being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School. Two Philadelphia schools, Penn Alexander and GAMP, won the coveted honor, and five more schools locally were also honored.. ... Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
by Kristen A. Graham
Published 
Sept. 21, 2021

Seven local schools have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

The schools, among 13 in Pennsylvania that won the coveted distinction are Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), and Penn Alexander, Philadelphia; St. Andrew Catholic School, Newtown; St. Ignatius of Antioch School, Yardley; St. Mary Catholic School, Schwenksville; St. Norbert Catholic School, Paoli; Tinicum Elementary School, Pipersville.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the winners Tuesday.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” Cardona said at a prizewinning school in Illinois. “In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children.”

Penn Alexander students celebrate their school's being named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.. ... Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Nationwide, 325 schools from across the country — less than 1% of all schools nationwide — received the award. Schools, which must complete an exhaustive application to be considered, win either based on standardized test performance or on efforts to close achievement gaps between students.

Last year, six local schools, all in Pennsylvania, won the honor. No South Jersey schools won the honor this year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia celebrated its two prizewinners with confetti cannons, a drum line, and a band triumphantly playing the “Rocky” theme.

Lauren Overton, the principal of Penn Alexander, a K-8 in West Philadelphia, celebrated not just the award but also the fact that her student body was together for the first time since the pandemic began. The school’s nearly 600 students dressed in blue and gathered outside to mark the day. It was Penn Alexander’s second Blue Ribbon; the last was awarded in 2016.

The school gives all students access to engaging and challenging content, emphasizes community and diversity. But, Overton said, the school, which operates in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and receives additional per-student funding from Penn, can’t rest on its laurels.

“We know when we design schools for the students at the margins, the community will thrive,” she said.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. greets Mayor Jim Kenney at a celebration of Penn Alexander's National Blue Ribbon. . ... Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Mayor Jim Kenney said the schools’ accomplishments underscore the importance of investing in education.

“I want to thank you for making me want to get up tomorrow morning to go to work,” Kenney told the Penn Alexander students.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jovan Moore, principal of GAMP, a South Philadelphia magnet, announced the news to a delighted student body, 600 students in grades 5 through 12.

“GAMP strives for musical and academic excellence in an environment where all students can succeed,” Moore said. “You all give your best in the classroom and on the stage, and it shows.”

Hite said the awards were a bright spot.

“It was much harder to do during COVID,” the superintendent said of applying for the award and subsequently winning it.

ADVERTISEMENT

At Tinicum Elementary, a K-5 of 140 students in Pipersville, Bucks County, principal Michael Donnelly was thrilled at the recognition of the Palisades School District’s work.

“We have a really great student-teacher ratio and relationships and services,” Donnelly said. “We know each of our kiddos by name, and we teach to the whole child.”

Andrew McLaughlin, secretary of elementary education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was thrilled that four schools from the system won honors. Most archdiocesan schools operated schools in person for the whole year last year, unlike their public school counterparts.

“It’s kind of like the Super Bowl for educators,” McLaughlin said. “This speaks volumes.”

You‘ve reached your free article limit for this month.
To continue reading, subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our app and inquirer.com.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Published 
Sept. 21, 2021
I cover Philly schools, taking readers inside one of the largest districts in the country. I love a good drum line and a great classroom tale.
ADVERTISEMENT
Always asking on behalf of the people. Always Local. Always Philly.