Shields Valley gets nod for education award

Shields Valley Junior High is one of only three Montana schools nominated for a prestigious nationwide school award.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction nominated SVJHS to the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program under its “Exemplary High Performing” schools category, according to an OPI spokesman.

The Blue Ribbon Schools program is part of the U.S. Department of Education. A total of 421 schools nationwide may be nominated, with state allocations determined by the number of K-12 students and schools in each jurisdiction, ranging from a minimum of three schools to a maximum of 35, the BRS website states.

“The program recognizes outstanding public and nonpublic schools,” according to BRS website. “In identifying several hundred outstanding schools annually, the program celebrates school excellence, turn around stories, and closing subgroup achievement gaps.”

The Blue Ribbon Schools website says “Exemplary High Performing” schools have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students — the top 15 percent — in English and mathematics, measured by state assessments.

Under the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, Shields Valley seventh and eight graders outperform state and the school district in “advanced” proficiency levels in both English language and mathematics, according to data provided by Principal Greg Sager.

In English, 18 percent of seventh and eighth graders statewide test as “advanced,” but 39 percent of SVJHS show advanced proficiency. In math, the numbers are even more pronounced. Statewide, 16 percent of students are considered advanced whereas 47 percent of the SVJHS students earn advanced ratings.

The BRS program also considers the proportion of students

Sager praises the school’s teachers, students and parents for the high marks.

“I think we’ve got quality teachers that provide quality instruction,” Sager said recently. “They invest their time and encourage kids to meet their potential. We have a good group of kids and parents and a community that support education.”

The final selection of the nation’s 421 Blue Ribbon Schools will be announced in September. Winning schools are honored at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. and receive a flag and a plaque. Details of their achievements are shared on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

“It’s an honor to have been nominated,” Sager said.