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Muskego - Muskego Elementary School, S75 W17476 Janesville Road, came in for a pair of honors in recent days with one being the only Wisconsin school to be named a National Blue Ribbon School for high achievement by the US Department of Education.

The other was being named an exemplary 21st century school by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, a consortium of educators, organizations, foundations and businesses. Only three other schools in Wisconsin received the exemplary 21st century school honor.

A total of 329 schools in the nation were named 2016 Blue Ribbon Schools with Secretary of Education John King Jr. saying in a video message to them: "Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices—professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems."

He called the Blue Ribbon Schools "shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation."

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students achieve high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap. While Muskego was the only Wisconsin school honored for high achievement, seven others were honored for closing the achievement gap.

State nominated

Muskego Elementary was nominated for the Blue Ribbon award by the state Department of Public Instruction. Then an exhaustive questionnaire about school practices was completed.

“It is a true and well-deserved honor," Superintendent Kelly Thompson said in a news release announcing the award. "This accolade is evidence of the quality learning experiences students receive in Muskego-Norway."

"We believe it is a clear demonstration of outstanding student engagement, strong parent involvement, unwavering school board support and exemplary teaching and learning in our district.’’ Thompson said.

Sara Stanley who was principal of Muskego Elementary before moving over to Tess Corners Elementary this year, said in the news release, “This recognition is so well-deserved for staff, students, and families who rally around our vision of thinking students changing the world. I’m so honored to be a part of it.”

She and current Principal Robin Schrot, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Petersen and classroom teacher Laurie Schmidt will travel to Washington D.C. to receive the award and attend a recognition ceremony Nov. 7-8.  Muskego Elementary families and students will be invited to a recognition ceremony at the school later in November.

Country Meadows Elementary School won the Blue Ribbon honor in 2013.

Exemplary school

The exemplary 21st century school honor came from what the Partnership for 21st Century Learning deems to be exceptional use of 21st century learning practices to prepare students for success.

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning shares the stories of schools and school districts that have transformed student learning through innovative practices such as distributed leadership and community partnerships.

"This recognition is well-deserved and a result of the innovative, real-world learning experiences students are afforded at Muskego Elementary and across the Muskego-Norway School District," Thompson said in a news release announcing the honor.

P21 is a catalyst organization uniting business, government and education leaders from the U.S. and abroad to advance evidence-based education policy and practice. The goal is to promote innovative teaching and learning.

Founded in 2002, a framework for 21st century learning was developed by P21 in collaboration with educators who have shown how to integrate 21st century skills within their disciplines such as English, mathematics, science, geography, social studies, world languages and the arts.

"Congratulations to Muskego Elementary for pushing itself to align with the P21 Framework, providing students with opportunities to learn to be critical and creative thinkers and be self-directed and take initiative as learners. This achievement was earned through the partnership of students and staff," Thompson said.

Reflects on others

Although Muskego Elementary was the only school in the Muskego-Norway district to apply for consideration as an exemplary school, it reflects efforts made at every Muskego school, Thompson said.

"We focus efforts on building personalized learning," she said. To do that, the schools have sought to put a Chromebook or similar device in every student's hands, she said.

That enables the schools to provide a more personalized approach where teachers can monitor student progress and make decisions based on data, she said.

The schools also strive to have learning environments that are highly engaging, hands-on and that align with 21st century learning strategies, she said.

It might be ironic that Muskego Elementary is one of two schools to be closed in two years because of age. The students and staff distributed to other schools.

But Thompson said,"Teachers and building principals have the greatest direct impact on student success."

"We look forward to continuing our commitment to serve students in our newly renovated elementary spaces starting in 2018-19," she said.

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