Eagle Lake receives National Blue Ribbon designation

EDWARDSBURG — Last Monday, students at Eagle Lake Elementary School gathered in the gymnasium for a special presentation. It was spirit week, and the students were asked to wear blue, but not because it is one of the school colors. It was because Eagle Lake was recognized nationally as one of the top schools in the nation with a National Blue Ribbon award.

“It’s a big honor,” said Principal Deborah Becraft. “It’s the highest award a public school can get to be recognized at the national level. It’s nice to see the hard work of staff and students and supportive administration and the board members to be recognized.”

She said that the students were not totally able to understand what the award meant, but that they were
still excited.

The award is given by the U.S. Department of Education and recognizes public and private schools. It looks at  each schools overall academic excellence or their progress. Every year the hundreds of school’s are celebrated and recognized with this honor.

This year, 349 schools were given the Blue Ribbon designation, with 13 of them being
from Michigan.

Becraft said the award reflects how supportive the entire community is and the culture of excellence it has established.

“Well, we stayed focused on student achievement and providing students with what they need to be successful to the standards that the state has for us, and it’s working together with the primary building,” she said. “They lay the foundation for us. The board supports us when there are things that we need or there are programs that we would like to try out or resources to support us.”

At some point, the school district intends to host a ceremony celebrating this accomplishment, but Becraft said that will likely be after she, Superintendent Jim Knoll and another staff member visit Washington D.C. in November for a ceremony with the U.S. Department of Education.

“[The community ceremony] will be in mid- to late November most likely,” she said, “but we absolutely want to celebrate with the community.”

A big factor in receiving the Blue Ribbon status is how Eagle Lake students performed on statewide standardized testing.

“They begin their state testing in third grade, so it was the third graders two years ago that the state noticed they’re results — the current fifth grade,” Becraft said. “We were nominated based on those results and then we had an application process that had to be completed and approved at the federal level. Then this last year, state tests also had to hit those same bench marks or higher, which we were able to do.”

To prepare students, she said the school focuses on serving students socially and emotionally, as well as academically. Becraft believes that a safe caring nurturing environment is essential. But she knows that the community and culture is also a big part of providing that.

“Even our little guys that come to kindergarten know that they are going to be an Eddie and they are excited about it and they know the school colors,” she said. “So they understand the culture that’s so ingrained and respect in the community.”

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