RRC, BLHS schools earn 2018 National Blue Ribbon School recognition

LAMBERTON — Red Rock Central (RRC) High School and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Elementary School were among eight Minnesota schools named 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) recently.

Other Minnesota 2018 National Blue Ribbon schools are Canby, Fertile-Beltrami, Van Dyke Elementary School in Coleraine and Maple River East Elementary School in Minnesota Lake; the School of Engineering and Arts in Golden Valley; and Wayzata Central Middle School in Plymouth.

A total of 300 public schools and 49 non-public schools across the country received the award this year.

Schools are honored as “exemplary high performing” or “exemplary achievement gap closing” according to the DOE. All eight Minnesota schools were recognized as exemplary high performing schools.

“Our teachers and educators deserve so much credit for their focus on equity and ensuring all kids get an excellent education. Our Blue Ribbon Schools set the bar high. We look forward to learning from their success,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a news release from the Minnesota Department of Education.

Located in Redwood and Cottonwood Counties, RRC serves about 400 K-12 students from the communities of Lamberton, Sanborn, Storden, Jeffers, and the surrounding area. It also provides a preschool program for three and four-year-olds plus Early Childhood Family Education. (ECFE).

Since 2008, RRC has annually been selected as one of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report, receiving recognition five times in each of the silver and bronze categories. In addition, the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute recognized RRC as “One of the Ten Best-Prepared High Schools for College Students in Rural Minnesota.” RRC Elementary School was designated a Minnesota Reward School by the Minnesota Department of Education in 2016.

RRC 5-12 Principal Phil Goetstouwers said the school district typically scores 8-15% above state averages on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs).

In 2017-2018, RRC secondary students who qualified for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRP) scored in 75% proficient on the Reading MCAs while students not qualified for FRP scored 81.5% proficiency, Goetstouwers said.

In addition, RRC 4-year college-bound students consistently outperformed the state average on the ACT (American College Testing), helping the district receive the ACT Red Quill Award.

“Even though we are a small school, we do a lot with a little,” Goetstouwers said. “We have our own digital fabrication lab and a fully-functioning, four-stall auto shop. We are also very proud of the fact that a large percentage of our seniors received some sort of college credit through our concurrent enrollment, Advanced Placement offerings, and articulated agreements. An amazing part of those three offerings is that all of our students have the opportunity for college credit before they graduate, not just our four-year college-bound kids.”

The RRC High School Band was selected to perform at the 2017 Minnesota Music Educators Association Mid-Winter Convention. In each of the last four years, the RRC High School Choir has been selected to perform the national anthem at St. Cloud State University Division I hockey games.

“At Red Rock Central, we believe it starts with the staff. Key school strategies encourage and challenge all students to develop their full potential academically, emotionally, physically, socially and culturally,” Goetstouwers said.

In addition, he said small class sizes (13:1 average student to teacher ratio and 11:1 student to staff ratio), allow staff to get to know each student and identify their strengths and needs.

At BL-H-S, a community/school/home partnership is focused on learning and challenging all students to strive for excellence using effective teaching methods, resources and application experiences with an emphasis on individual student achievement.

The school district has 12% ELL (English Language Learners) and 57% economically disadvantaged students.

The elementary school was recognized as a Minnesota Reward School in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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