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Principal Anu Ebbe walks with students during the playground dedication at Shorewood Hills Elementary School. Shorewood was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a 2017 Blue Ribbon school. 

On Thursday the Department of Education announced that Shorewood Elementary was designated a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School.

Blue Ribbon Schools are both public and private schools across the country that are recognized by the Department of Education for their overall academic performance or progress in narrowing achievement gaps in targeted student subgroups. Shorewood was designated as an “exemplary high performing school.”

Shorewood Hills Principal Anu Ebbe said a commitment to high expectations in the classroom and relationship building with students contribute to the school's academic outcomes. 

"When we look at our school-wide data around reading and mathematics we've shown consistent growth every year for every category of student. We have closed the gap for our English language learners and our African-American students in reading and math," Ebbe said. "We are constantly looking at our data and saying 'What is the next level of professional development and learning that needs to happen so we can ensure all our kids are growing?' The staff is incredibly open to taking risks and trying new things. It is an amazing place." 

Ebbe said students, staff and families watched United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' announcement, delivered via YouTube, at the school on Thursday.

Ebbe said the Shorewood community tries to create a school culture that acknowledges and respects students for who they are and takes pride in its diverse student body. 

"About 50 percent of our students are English language learners. We have a variety of socioeconomic ranges in our building," she said. "It is such a beautiful diversity, and I think people are feeling really acknowledged for what we are doing with that diversity in terms of how we set up the (school) climate." 

Three hundred and forty-one other schools also received Blue Ribbon designations this year. In the recorded video statement, DeVos congratulated the winners.

“There are more than 130,000 schools in the United States and you’re at the top,” she said. “Some might say your students are achieving unimaginable success, but they imagined it, and you are walking side-by-side with them everyday, meeting their unique needs.”

DeVos invited the winners to Washington D.C. in November to receive their honor.

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State superintendent Tony Evers nominated Shorewood and seven other Wisconsin schools for the honor in January. Evers said in a press release that the nominees “provide a safe and supportive learning environment where young people can build a foundation for future academic and life success.”

Each year, nominated schools submit an application to the Department of Education that includes information about their academic performance, demographics and faculty. The department reviews the applications and announces the winners each September.

Nine other Madison-area schools — Crestwood Elementary, Muir Elementary, Van Hise (now Velma Hamilton) Middle School, West High School, East High School, La Follette High School, Memorial High School, Edgewood High School and Middleton High School — have received Blue Ribbon designations since the awards began in 1982.

Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent Jennifer Cheatham also congratulated the Shorewood school community for their honor on Thursday.

"We are so proud of our Shorewood students, staff and families," Cheatham said in an emailed statement to the Cap Times.

"Shorewood is a beautiful, diverse and inclusive school that holds students to high expectations and has achieved great results. We are thrilled that Shorewood is being recognized with this incredibly high and well deserved honor."

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