For the first time in nearly 30 years, an Akron school has been recognized as one of the nation’s best performing.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education bestowed Akron Early College High School with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award.
The last Akron schools to receive that award were Jennings Middle School in 1985 and Perkins Junior High School in 1983, according to records from the National Blue Ribbon School Program.
In all, the U.S. Department of Education awarded 15 Ohio schools this year, including Harmon Middle School in Aurora, Watson Elementary School in Massillon and Cuyahoga Heights High School.
But unlike schools in Aurora, where less than 10 percent of students live in poverty, Akron Early College High School made the list with more than half of its students living in poverty.
“The 2013 Blue Ribbon Schools prove that demographics are not destiny,” Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said in a video broadcast Tuesday. “In America, we have islands of excellent schools, including schools serving disadvantaged populations and struggling neighborhoods. We need to shine a spotlight on excellent schools.”
Akron Early College enrolls Akron city students who wish to be the first in their families to graduate from college. The school of 350 students is located downtown in the Polsky building on the University of Akron campus.
“[We are] incredibly thrilled, and the kudos go to the staff and students here,” said Marilyn Bennett, principal at Akron Early College. “The students work so hard here toward expectations and through challenges.”
The early college partners with UA to give Akron-area students the opportunity to take college courses in high school. The program motivates students with a tuition-free college education. Most students graduate high school with an associate degree.
Since 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award has recognized more than 7,000 schools. Since 2003, the program has placed each recipient into one of two categories: “Exemplary High Performing” school, based solely on student test scores, and “Exemplary Improving” schools, which have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds and demonstrate progress on state and national tests.
Akron Early College qualified as an “Exemplary Improving” school because of the high student poverty rate, but Bennett proudly pointed out that the school received the Blue Ribbon award under the more prestigious category of “Exemplary High Performing.”
“We’re in the high-achieving, high-performing category. And we’re so appreciative that the state acknowledged that through the nomination,” Bennett said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.