Ballard Elementary earns ‘Reward School’ ranking for academic performance

Published 1:41 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

NILES — A local elementary school was recognized for its academic excellence.

Ballard Elementary School celebrated its designation as a “Reward School” by the Michigan Department of Education with a ceremony Friday morning. 

The Reward School designation is based on a set of criteria that evaluates schools on their performance in several areas, including student proficiency, student growth, and school proficiency comparisons with peer schools. According to Ballard Principal Jennifer Shabazz, Ballard earned its Reward School designation because of its performance growth in the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, a computer-based assessment designed to gauge how well students are mastering state standards. The designation is reserved for the state’s top five percent of schools.

“It’s really quite phenomenal,” Shabazz said.

100 percent of Ballard students hit their projected growth, receiving A grades in growth in both math and language arts. Shabazz said the designation was the result of years of hard work and dedication from teachers, staff and students alike.

“We’ve just been really focusing on what the students need, where they’re at and really meeting them where they’re at and using our interventionists and our teachers just to hone in on those skills,” she said. “We’re very proud.”

The event featured student and teacher speakers, a performance from the Ballard Guitar Club and an inaugural Reward School banner-hanging. Four fifth grade students, including Hadley Recker, Braylen Bice and Stephanie Jann, gave speeches on what it means to be a Ballard Viking.


“I think our school has grown so much since I started here at Ballard. Something I think helped me grow is the groups that I went to for different skills. Another thing I like about Ballard is how we can do Science Olympiad because it gives the students who want to do it something to do for fun. Something I like about Ballard is it has so many different teachers that help if you don’t know a skill the first time you can go and try it again with them. 

Another thing I like is there are different expectations for each classroom or space you go in. I would like to thank all of my past teachers and my present one. These teachers include Mrs. Burkhard, Mrs. Derlaim, Mrs. McNeely, Miss Wozniak, and Mrs. Palleschi. Some of the teachers don’t work at Ballard anymore, but I would still like to thank them for all that they have done for me. I come to thank all of the other teachers here who have done a great job, too.”


“Vikings are resilient, respectful, responsible and safe. We also learn reading, writing, math, science and social studies. We do all of this hard work for M-STEP so we can do better. There is always room for improvement and doing all this helps us get smarter everyday.”


“We just got a big reward from all the hard work we do here at Ballard. I can tell you some of us fifth graders are proud to be in such an amazing school! Keep up the good work and if you get it wrong, then remember to try again and you can succeed. We’re Ballard Vikings and we don’t give up!”