Three public schools on Long Island — each rated "high performing" and recognized for overall academic excellence — were named 2019 National Blue Ribbon winners Thursday.
Bethpage High School, Manhasset Secondary School and Shoreham-Wading River High School were among 19 schools in New York State honored by the U.S. Department of Education.
"I am incredibly proud of our students, our faculty, our community, our parents," said Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Gerard Poole. "When a high school gets recognition for exemplary student performance, it is the culmination of everyone … working together to support students."
The federal Department of Education listed 312 public and 50 private schools nationwide. The department will formally recognize the schools at an awards ceremony at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14-15.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in a video message to the honorees, said that “As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning.”
Federal blue ribbons recognize two categories of schools: those with superior graduation rates and test scores, and those with exemplary records in closing achievement "gaps" between students of different races, ethnicities and economic backgrounds.
The Long Island schools were cited as "Exemplary High Performing Schools," considered among their state’s highest performing as measured by state assessments or national tests.
Bethpage Superintendent David Schneider said the district provides students with a strong foundation from kindergarten to eighth grade, enabling them to succeed when they reach high school. The school in Nassau County enrolls about 950 students.
The school is considered a leader in the integration of technology with instruction, Schneider said, as the district was an early adopter of the one-to-one Chromebook initiative where students receive the computers. In addition, he said the district has a strong partnership with Google. The district also introduced the Advanced Placement Capstone program about three years ago — courses that develop skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing and presenting.
The high school provides "a very rich program where students get opportunities to branch out," he said.
Manhasset Secondary School, which serves about 1,600 students in grades seven to 12, provides a focus on opportunities for all students, Superintendent Vincent Butera said.
"That focus has conveyed a message to students that we believe in them," he said.
There are inclusion classes that provide support for students who may need it, and some classes are deliberately kept smaller to provide additional help, he said. In addition, enrollment in the school's Advanced Placement classes has grown, with the number of AP exams taken by students going from 605 in 2005 to 1,653 this year.
Applications for Blue Ribbon status typically require months of preparation by school employees and supporters.
Frank Pugliese, principal of Shoreham-Wading River High, which enrolls about 775 students, said essays about community involvement played a large role in the district's application.
"We see how the community is so embedded in everything we do," he said.
For example, the high school has a program called "School to Community," where volunteers mentor students and speak about future careers and opportunities.
Interim New York State Education Commissioner Beth Berlin said Thursday that "the schools being recognized today have achieved a standard of excellence through hard work and dedication that is rightfully being honored."
Last year, the honor went to four public high schools on Long Island. Since 2015, the great majority of public elementary and middle schools in this region have found themselves shut out of Blue Ribbon competitions, due to the large numbers of parents opting their children out of state tests in grades three through eight. Federal law requires at least 95 percent of such students to be tested annually.