Northfield Elementary named National Blue Ribbon School

  • Northfield Elementary School Principal Megan Desmarais shares the news that the school was recognized Tuesday as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • Northfield Elementary School staff gathered outside Tuesday for an announcement that the school was recognized along with just four other schools in the state, and 325 schools nationwide, as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 9/22/2021 5:35:49 PM

NORTHFIELD — Northfield Elementary School was one of five schools in the state and 325 schools nationwide to be recognized Tuesday as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

Earning recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the Department of Education.

Schools are recognized in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates. Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest-performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally norm-referenced tests. Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools, like Northfield Elementary, are among their state’s highest-performing schools in closing achievement gaps between the school’s student subgroups and all students.

“I’m very proud. … It’s so nice to be acknowledged for the work that educators do,” said Northfield Elementary School Principal Megan Desmarais as she shared the news of the award and received applause from faculty gathered outside the school for the announcement Tuesday. “There’s not a lot of ways that happens, and this is one really special way.”

She said faculty embarked on a “leading together journey,” and through this work they’ve learned the importance of “relational trust in schools.”

“Students trust in their teachers, parents trust in their school, faculty trust in their principal, colleagues and families,” Desmarais said. “We know there is a very strong correlation between having a positive school community and student achievement. Together, we have worked daily to bring about positive change so that our school is a place where you all want to come to work every day, where our students feel safe learning and taking risks, and where parents know they can count on our partnership.”

Desmarais said Northfield Elementary has also spent time digging into its curriculum, and takes close looks at student data — including MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) results for students in grades three through six — to make informed choices about how to best support its students.

Northfield Elementary was recommended for the national award by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) based on 2019 data. In 2019, Desmarais said the school showed significant growth overall, but was especially noted as exceeding most of its targets. Last spring, Northfield Elementary was nominated as a National Blue Ribbon School and invited to apply for the prestigious award.

The application process, Desmarais said, was “extremely lengthy.” Meetings were held for faculty to provide input as they drafted written answers of between 200 and 800 words for questions about their education programs. The final application was submitted in April.

Cheryl George, Northfield Elementary parent, school librarian and co-chair of the Parent-Teacher Organization, shared Desmarais’ enthusiasm in an announcement shared with district families on Tuesday.

“We love our school. It’s an amazing place, where every child is known, where every child matters, where staff care so much about kids,” George said in a written statement. “We’ve known forever that NES is a special place. We’re so glad that the federal government has recognized what we’ve known all along.”

Of the more than 98,000 public schools in the United States, only 325 schools across the country — including four other schools in the state — were named a National Blue Ribbon School this year. The other award winners in Massachusetts are Winship Elementary School in Brighton, Josiah Haynes Elementary School in Sudbury, John D. Hardy Elementary School in Wellesley and Weston Middle School in Weston.

Pioneer Valley Regional School District Interim Superintendent Patricia Kinsella said she is proud of Northfield Elementary’s faculty and students. Kinsella also noted, aside from Winship Elementary School in Brighton, that the other Massachusetts schools awarded are in wealthier communities.

Along with the title of National Blue Ribbon School, Northfield Elementary will receive a commemorative plaque and flag, and will be allowed to use the logo in its official correspondence. Kinsella, Desmarais and another faculty members are invited to an award ceremony in Washington D.C. in November.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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