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8 D.C. area schools win National Blue Ribbon award for academic achievement

Sarah Hillware talks with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty at the School Without Walls, where Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the National Blue Ribbon School award winners.
Sarah Hillware talks with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty at the School Without Walls, where Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the National Blue Ribbon School award winners. (Bill O'leary/the Washington Post)
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By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2010

Eight public and private schools in the Washington area received one of the highest distinctions in U.S. education Thursday as Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the 304 winners of the National Blue Ribbon School awards.

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Duncan spoke at the District's School Without Walls on Thursday, citing the school -- the only one in the District to receive the award -- for its progress in raising achievement levels among disadvantaged and minority students.

The school, on the campus of George Washington University, requires an application for admission and draws students from across the city.

"What you are demonstrating is what this country can do academically," Duncan said, addressing all the recipients of the honor. "There are no excuses -- there are very high expectations."

Duncan spoke to a group of School Without Walls seniors and was joined by D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and GWU Provost Steven Lerman. The secretary drew nervous laughter from students when he said that the United States needs longer school days and school years if it is to compete globally.

With less than a week before the District's hotly contested mayoral primary, Duncan was asked whether he was delivering an endorsement on behalf of President Obama, whom Fenty has asked for support.

"I don't do politics," Duncan said. "I'm the secretary of education."

On this year's D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests, 100 percent of white sophomores attending the School Without Walls read at the proficient level or better, and 92.4 percent of their black classmates met the benchmark.

In math, they were almost identical: 94.3 percent of African American sophomores cleared the proficiency bar and 95 percent of white 10th-graders did.

The Blue Ribbon award goes to public schools in the top 10 percent of academic performance in their state -- private schools are judged by national exams -- and to schools that have demonstrated significant improvement and where at least 40 percent of the students are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Other area public schools that won were Ellicott Mills Middle School in Howard County, Northern Middle School in Calvert County and Lincoln Elementary School in Loudoun County.

Private school recipients were St. John the Baptist School in Silver Spring, St. Louis School in Howard County, St. Ambrose Catholic School in Annandale and St. Theresa School in Ashburn.

Staff writers Ann E. Marimow and Bill Turque contributed to this report.


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