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Hickory Elementary School in Halfway celebrates award

September 11, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HALFWAY -- Hickory Elementary School students were given lollipops Wednesday and teachers held blue streamers, celebrating a prestigious national award the school received the day before.

Hickory was one of 320 schools in the country that were named National Blue Ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Six of those schools are in Maryland.

"It's just an amazing accomplishment, not only for stakeholders at Hickory Elementary, but also for Washington County Public Schools," said Mike Markoe, assistant superintendent for elementary education.

The national program recognizes schools that closed achievement gaps or whose students achieve high levels of academic success, according to a press release. Schools are selected based on state test results and student achievement, curriculum and instruction, professional development of teachers and school leadership structure.

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Hickory Elementary, in Halfway, is the third school in Washington County to receive this distinction. Hancock Middle-High and Salem Avenue Elementary are the other two.

Catherine Scuffins learned that Hickory had been chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School in an e-mail she received Tuesday. The former Hickory Elementary principal even knows what time she received the e-mail.

It was 1:08 p.m., Scuffins said.

She was principal of Hickory Elementary for four years, and was she principal last year when the school was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon School. She is now principal of Lincolnshire Elementary.

At the time Hickory was named a state Blue Ribbon School, its students were praised by state officials for beating the odds.

Fifty-two percent of the school's 300 students live in poverty, but the students have high standardized test scores and are active in many charities, officials said.

Students participated in community service projects to raise money for world hunger and tsunami relief, and they have sent about 1,500 letters and cards to those serving in Iraq.

Students also had high scores in reading and math on 2007 Maryland School Assessments. Scuffins said that 2007 scores were a factor in the school's state honor, but 2008 scores also were considered at the national level.

Scuffins said she is very excited that her former school received the national honor.

"When you're at a building for that long, you don't just turn it off," she said. "I have an attachment for the staff and students. I'm just thrilled for them. I was just absolutely ecstatic."

Hickory Principal Amy Norris said the national award reflects years of hard work by students, staff and parents.

While many programs that led the school to close achievement gaps and make gains in school assessment scores will remain, Norris said she's also adding new programs and initiatives to continue the school's momentum.

"We have a big focus on technology this year," she said. "We're bringing more technology into the classroom. That grabs students' attention and gets them excited about learning."

Norris said the school also is focusing more on writing.

For its national honor, Hickory will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in October, according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site.




What is a National Blue Ribbon School?

The 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, according to the U.S. Department of Education Web site.

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