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Uptown school earns national recognition

Submitted on Thu, 10/25/2007 – 14:30.

A blue ribbon school in Uptown recently marked a red letter day. Horace Greeley Elementary School was one of only 12 schools in Illinois to earn top honors from the U.S. Department of Education for high achievement.

At a school assembly earlier this month, Greeley students and staff learned that the school was named one of the 2007 Blue Ribbon Schools. This designation was given to only 287 schools nationwide as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Officials from Chicago Public Schools and the Department of Education attended the Oct. 4 assembly at the school, which is located at 832 W. Sheridan Rd.

“You’ve shown us that we can raise the rigor and expectations for
our students and schools and that you will rise to the challenge, meet
it, and then some,” CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Barbara
Eason-Watkins told the audience at the assembly.

“We want to see this kind of success with every child at every school,” she said. “We need more schools like Greeley.”

To be nominated, schools must perform in the top 10 percent of
state-wide testing scores or, like Greeley, be considered an at-risk
school, determined by the number of students from low-income or English
as a Second Language homes that made significant progress. Ninety-three
percent of Greeley students qualify for the national free lunch program .

“I’ve been at Greeley for over 20 years and this is the most
exciting recognition we have received,” said teacher Joanne Collins.
“Our entire staff, parents and community work so hard and have high
expectations for every student. The Blue Ribbon Award reflects our
commitment to reach high levels of academic achievement that enables
the students to become active and successful members of society.”

Since 2002, Greeley has raised their reading scores on Illinois State Achievement Tests
by more than 36 percentage points, with approximately 83 percents of
students meeting or exceeding state standards. Math scores showed
improvement of 52 percentage points, with about 90 percent meeting or
exceeding standards.

“I am extremely proud of our staff and students,” said first-year
Principal Carlos Azcoitia. “There are so many people to thank. We can
take this time to do that, but we must also ask ‘Where do we go from

In his three previous years as assistant principal, Azcoitia said he realized how important it is to have a support system.

“In order to achieve this level of academic excellence, regardless
of barriers, schools need full community involvement from the staff,
parents and students,” Azcoitia said.

Greeley’s success has included overcoming language barriers. Besides
its Spanish bilingual program, the school has a Regional Gifted Center
for English Language Learners grades 3 through 8 whose first language
is Polish, Russian or Spanish. Of Greeley’s 443 students, 141
participate in the gifted language program.

“Greeley has a truly unique offering with their bilingual
opportunities,” said Julie Ewart, a spokeswoman for the Department of
Education. “It is something that can make for a challenge, but with
their excellent teachers and programs, they are thriving.”

Barbara Radner, a professor at DePaul University’s School of Education, said such high honors can lead schools to even greater academic success.

“The recognition really is significant. That it is so exclusive
makes it important; it enables the school to be recognized for what is
a lot of work,” Radner said. “It may position the school for further
funding, not from the government as much as from foundations and
potential government initiatives.”

Besides funding, Greeley hopes its Blue Ribbon status will increase
enrollment. School secretary Marybel Gonzalez said numbers were as high
as 650 students a few years ago, but there are now fewer children in
the Uptown neighborhood. Parents choosing parochial schools over public
schools has also affected enrollment, Gonzalez said.

“It was a wonderful, beautiful honor,” Gonzalez said. “I just hope
it will now bring more publicity and children for our school.”

North Side Public Schools & Education
blue ribbon chicago public schools horace greeley elementary school no child left behind uptown

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