Topsham elementary named National Blue Ribbon School

TOPSHAM – An elementary school in Topsham that has seen double-digit increases over the last five years in the percentage of its students deemed proficient is Maine’s National Blue Ribbon School.

The Williams-Cone School in RSU 75 was one of 236 public schools across the country named this morning by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan into the prestigious program that recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels or show significant improvements in closing achievement gaps.

In the 2011-12 school year, 81 percent of Williams-Cone students achieved proficiency or above on the State assessment in reading and 77 percent did in math, up from 66 percent in both reading and math in 2007-08.

The K-5 school, which serves just over 200 students under the leadership of Principal Randa Rineer, has shown especially significant gains among its third graders. In that grade, students scoring higher than proficient in math increased from 26 percent in 2007-08 to 51 percent in 2011-12 and in reading from 3 percent in 2007-08 to 37 percent in 2011-12.

Last spring, Williams-Cone earned an “A” in the Maine Department of Education’s School Performance Grading System, with its proficiency and growth above state averages and 100 percent participation on State assessments. The school also had remarkable growth among its most struggling 25 percent of students, with 77.1 percent of those students improving in math and 69 percent in reading, well above the state averages of 48 percent and 58 percent respectively.

“The Williams-Cone School is committed to high student achievement and has the results to prove it,” said Maine Deputy Education Commissioner Jim Rier. “This blue ribbon is just the latest well-deserved recognition for this school that is continuously improving because of its dedication to supporting the success of every child, no matter their challenges. The students, staff and community of Williams-Cone should be proud of their excellence, and other schools in Maine should look to them as a shining example of effective, engaging learner-centered education.”

The school’s accomplishments in recent years have come amidst a backdrop of great change in the region with the closure of the Brunswick Naval Air Station. That led to the loss of many students and shifts in student needs as former military housing became public low-income housing.

But school leaders have overcome those challenges by committing to high standards for all students, using achievement data to drive decision-making, and engaging families and the community to enrich student learning and development.

The U.S. Department of Education will honor Williams-Cone and the other distinguished schools in a ceremony in Washington D.C. in November.  Now in its 31st year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized more than 7,000 schools, including more than 50 from Maine.

For more information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools program in Maine, visit www.maine.gov/doe/recognition/.

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