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Westport earns 'Blue Ribbon' school title
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The "Academy Award" of school awards - the coveted Blue Ribbon School designation - is being bestowed on Westport Elementary School.

The U.S. Department of Education tapped the rural Ceres school for either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, especially among disadvantaged students.

School and district officials say students at the school are doing well because the school has a strong partnership with parents who are involved with the educational process.

Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel said the school has been successful for a number of factors, especially "the attention to instructional practices. They're making sure students are learning and checking for student understanding. They've had a very robust intervention program for students who are not learning."

Drawing from south Modesto and rural Ceres addresses, Westport students represent some of the poorest families in the district. Ninety percent of the students qualify for the free lunch program and seven out of 10 students are learning English.

Westport's star shined greatly in the recent release of the 2010 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) results released by the California Department of Education. It showed Westport excelling despite representing the lowest school socio-economically speaking. Westport boasts 68 percent proficiency in English/language arts, 76 percent in math and 35 percent in fifth-grade science.

"We know kids can do well no matter where they come from," said Jones.

Siegel noted that Westport has been making solid gains for the past decade and that "it's hard to make gains now because they are scoring so high."

"I am very proud of the parents, students and staff and support staff," he added.

School and district officials will be invited to pick up the award at a national ceremony held in Washington, D.C. by the end of the year.

The last time a Stanislaus County school was bestowed the honor was when Virginia Parks Elementary was named a Blue Ribbon school in 2003; and in the 1985-86 school year the award was given to Walter White Elementary.

The Blue Ribbon Schools program is part of a larger Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about best school leadership and teaching practices. Each year since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has sought out schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those that beat the odds.