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Closing achievement gaps: State nominates Red Apple for national award
National Blue Ribbon Schools

Closing achievement gaps: State nominates Red Apple for national award

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RACINE — Red Apple Elementary School is making strides in closing achievement gaps, and those at the state level have taken notice.

Racine Unified’s Red Apple was one of eight schools in the state that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction nominated for the national Department of Education’s 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.

“Our kids love coming here,” said Directing Principal Kevin McCormick. “And it’s because of the environment. And I know we’re not perfect, but it’s a fun place to learn and we have really high expectations.”

McCormick just found out that the school was nominated for the award on Feb. 6.

“I was excited,” he said.

McCormick called a meeting the next morning to tell the staff the big news. He said they were excited as well.

The Blue Ribbon program awards schools for academic excellence and making progress in closing achievement gaps. Red Apple was nominated for the latter, for obvious reasons. On the state report cards, issued in the fall based on data from the previous school year, Red Apple scored 88.2 out of 100 possible points for closing gaps. The state average score was 73.9.

On the report card, schools receive points for closing the achievement gaps between various groups, such as students with disabilities and students without disabilities and economically disadvantaged students and students who are not economically disadvantaged.

Culture makes a difference

McCormick thinks one of the biggest contributing factors in Red Apple’s success is its culture.

“It’s a very loving staff, that’s part of the culture,” he said. “It’s very family oriented.”

He also credited support from the district in providing consistent curriculum and the school’s development of its own strategic plan and vision.

“We want to be the best STEAM/STEM school in the state of Wisconsin,” McCormick said.

Red Apple is Racine Unified’s dedicated science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, or STEAM, choice school.

To that end, Red Apple staff has been working for more than a year to incorporate Next Generation Science Standards used for STEAM into other subject like English, health, music and physical education.

For example, third-grade teachers introduce a literary piece about a lion in a cage and turn it into a problem-solving event. Students compare the lion in a cage at the zoo to a lion its natural habitat. Then they engineer a simple machine to move the lion into its natural environment to give it a better quality of life.

Continued growth has been a priority for McCormick since he came to Red Apple four years ago.

“We practice a huge growth mindset,” he said.

That means it’s okay for students to fail, they just need to try again.

Emily DeBaker, communications manager for Racine Unified, believes that keeping kids interested in their learning is an important part of the school’s success.

“They engage students every single day in every class,” DeBaker said. “They always make it a point to make sure that it’s engaging and hands on.”

The next step for Red Apple is to complete the National Blue Ribbon Schools application and undergo a review, according to a press release from DPI. The winners will be announced in September.

“We are nominating these eight schools for the National Blue Ribbon School award because they serve as great examples of our progression toward improving student outcomes across the state,” State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said in a statement. “I wish these schools and their respective communities well in the next steps of this prestigious national program.”

Other nominees

Other schools nominated in the state for the awards are:

  • Luther Elementary School, South Milwaukee School District
  • Maple Dale Elementary School, Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District
  • Lake Delton Elementary School, School District of Wisconsin Dells
  • Altoona Intermediate School, School District of Altoona
  • Nicolet Elementary School, Menasha Joint School District
  • Lake Superior Elementary School, School District of Superior
  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Wausau School District.

“We want to be the best STEAM/STEM school in the state of Wisconsin.” Kevin McCormick, directing principal at Red Apple School

“We want to be the best STEAM/STEM school in the state of Wisconsin.” Kevin McCormick, directing principal at Red Apple School

“We want to be the best STEAM/STEM school in the state of Wisconsin.”

Kevin McCormick, directing principal at Red Apple School

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Reporter

Caitlin Sievers covers education in Racine County with a primary focus on Racine Unified School District. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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