Sherri Coder has exciting news. In her 11th year as principal of Ridgewood Elementary School in East Moline, the hard work is paying off.
Ridgewood has been nominated as a Blue Ribbon School by the state of Illinois -- one of 16 schools in the state and the first in the Illinois Quad-Cities.St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport received the honor in 2011.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes private and public schools for high levels of academic achievement or those that have made significant progress in recent years.
Once a school is nominated, an application must be submitted. It's a process that Ms.Coder describes as arduous and lengthy. The application is reviewed by a federal panel that decides which schools receive blue-ribbon status.
"I believe the nomination itself is an honor, but to get to the end is another step," Ms. Coder said.
Winners will be announced in September. Principals of winning schools will be invited to an awards ceremony in November in Washington, D.C., hosted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
"Do I think Ridgewood is a blue-ribbon school? Absolutely," East Moline superintendent Kristin Humphries said. "It really points to the work being done. It's nice to be recognized by the state of Illinois and potentially the whole country."
Schools are chosen based on standardized test scores. Ms. Coder said Illinois standard achievement test scores at Ridgewood have risen steadily for the past 10 years, and100 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded ISAT scores for math last year.
She said students have to attain the same level of achievement each year, which sets the bar at 92.5 percent. Ridgewood students have exceeded that with math scores of 96 percent.
Ms. Coder said challenges at Ridgewood Elementary include a 6 percent poverty rate, crowded classrooms and 19 percent mobility rate. She said the school is at capacity with no openings left in any classrooms.
"If you look at our stats, we are considered at-risk. Eighteen percent of the students are limited English proficient, 67 percent are on the free and reduced lunch program and 34 percent are Hispanic," she said.
As an example, she steps into a first-grade classroom with 22 students -- a classroom in which six languages are spoken.
"What's going to make the biggest difference in getting our kids to succeed? Reading," Ms. Coder said. "Poverty impacts reading more so than other subjects. Poverty can be a roadblock, but it's not an excuse."
Ms. Coder said students are more likely to succeed if they first learn to read in their native language, then English. Using this philosophy, Ridgewood Elementary has self-contained bilingual kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.
"Whether kids come to you speaking English, rich or poor, you have a moral responsibility to give them the best education you can," she said. "What's the saying -- how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
The other blue-ribbon nominee schools come from a mix of smaller rural towns and Chicago suburbs.
"To be in the pool with these schools, many of which are in wealthier districts with few kids on the free and reduced lunch program, is an achievement," Ms. Coder said.
Mr. Humphries said Ridgewood teachers work hard and, with strong families and leadership, you can make anything happen.
"I want the nation to know there are great schools in Illinois. We don't get the credit we deserve," Ms. Coder said.
"A national blue-ribbon school in the Quad-Cities? There can be quality education no matter where you go. It's fun beating the odds."
Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation. 1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.