Woodrow Cummins Elementary in Conway was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education on Oct. 1.
The elementary was one of only three schools in Arkansas named for the honor.
The U.S. Department of Education stated that the program recognizes public and private schools for high academic achievement or progress toward closing the “achievement gap.”
Principal Dayna Lewis was recognized during the Conway Board of Education’s regular meeting Tuesday night.
“We’re very proud of this accomplishment,” Superintendent Greg Murry said. “Let me publicly congratulate you and your staff for a job well done. We’re very proud of you and your school.”
Lewis said she wanted to share a bit of background information and why being a National Blue Ribbon School was so important to her.
Woodrow Cummin’s principal said before coming to Conway, she lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, and worked at South Highlands Elementary Magnet School.
Lewis said the school was the No.1 ranked school in the southern state and had been recognized as a blue ribbon twice — once in 2001 and once in 2005.
“So, coming here, I knew the importance of the National Blue Ribbon [and] I knew that was something from a national level to be recognized,” she said.
Woodrow Cummins is one of three schools in Conway that has received the honor; Jim Stone Elementary — Lewis was there at the time — received it in 2011 and Ellen Smith Elementary in 2013.
Lewis said the blue ribbon is not something that a school seeks out, but is an honor the “top educational officials” in the state nominate a school for.
“The nomination is so flattering,” she said. “They’ve looked at 5 years worth of your test data, your students have maintained excellent standardized test scores. So, it’s a lot of pressure on your third and fourth grade teachers.”
One thing the application process does force people to do is reflect on what the school has been doing for the past five years to earn the recognition.
“Looking at Woodrow Cummins, we’re not a bad school, we’re not doing things that are trendy, we are looking at our students, every day, looking at their data, and Conway has helped us so much with that, with our formative assessments and so we’re looking at where they are and we want them all to grow,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s growing, so that’s really the key.”
Board member Bill Clements asked Lewis if she knew how many schools across the nation has received the award; Lewis said 349 in total and more than 8,000 since the program started in 1982.
“Well done,” Clements said. “Something to be very proud of.”
In a news release from the district, Murry said there is good reason to be proud of this honor.
“We are very proud of this significant recognition of the staff at Woodrow Cummins,” he said. “They are to be commended for this considerable achievement. All of our teachers continue to do outstanding work in the classroom.”
J.B. Hunt Elementary School in Springdale School District and Kingsland Elementary School in the Cleveland County School District were the other two schools named rom Arkansas.
“I applaud the teachers, administrators and staff at these Blue Ribbon Schools for their exemplary work and their tremendous commitment to providing their students with a high-quality education,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news release from the Arkansas Department of Education. “While the work of an educator is never done, their hard work has paid off, and it communicates that Arkansas is serious about education. Thank you, teachers and students, for leading the way, and congratulations.”
J.B. Hunt Elementary School and Woodrow Cummins Elementary School received the Exemplary High Performing Schools designation for student performance on state assessments. Kingsland Elementary School received the Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools designation for its efforts to close achievement gaps between student groups and all students over the last five years, the release reads.
“I commend the students and educators at these three schools for their commitment to student learning and success,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in the release. . “They serve as models of excellence and are helping Arkansas lead the way in student-focused education."