Brentwood High School senior Connor Hancock passes by the banner the school received for being named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2006. BHS has also received the award for 2013. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit

Brentwood High School is one of only 53 high schools in the U.S. to be selected as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will visit BHS within the next few weeks to congratulate students and staff.

The recipients were announced on Sept. 24 in a press release by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The annual awards recognize public and private schools for academic excellence or academic improvement. BHS won for academic excellence. Recipients were determined based on standardized test scores over the past six school years, from 2008-13.

This year 286 schools received the award, 53 of them high schools. Brentwood is one of six Missouri high schools to be honored, and the only one from the St. Louis area.

“I’m excited when the outside stuff shows all those inside things we do every day for kids,” said Brentwood Superintendent of Schools David Faulkner. “It’s also nice that you can’t ask to be nominated; you have to be selected. So somebody has looked at all the high schools in the state of Missouri and has said these are the ones we want to nominate. It’s a big honor.”

Brentwood High School students were told of the award at a school assembly on Sept. 24. They watched a video of Duncan congratulating all the recipients.

“You are an inspiration to other schools in your region and across the country,” Duncan said.

The next day, BHS Principal Ed Johnson received a phone call from Governor Nixon’s office.

“He wants to come in and personally congratulate us,” Johnson said. An assembly and a reception are being planned.

BHS was also named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2006. Mark Twain Elementary was honored in 2010.

“I don’t think this award is just about our high school,” said Johnson, BHS’s assistant principal for eight years before becoming the principal this summer. “It’s about how our two elementary schools and middle school set our kids up for high school. It’s about our parents, our community, our hard working board of education. There are so many people who have a hand in the work done at the high school.”

High Math, English Scores

The Brentwood School District was notified last school year that they were nominated for the award. The nomination was based on Missouri Assessment Program and End-of-Course Assessment (MAP/EOC) test results in 10th-grade math and 11th-grade English from the previous five years, 2008-12. The nominees then submitted their scores from tests administered in April 2013.

“It’s the spring [2013] testing that allows you to have the blue ribbon,” said Faulkner, “but you have to have five years of high performance before that.”

The April 2013 test results were not only impressive but showed dramatic improvement from the five years of results that were initially considered.

In math (students in Algebra I and geometry were tested), 63 percent of students were graded as advanced and 93 percent were proficient or advanced. Compare that to four years earlier, when the scores were 24 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

In the April 2013 English test (students in English I and II), 38 percent were advanced and 84 percent were proficient or advanced. In 2008, those scores were 30 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

Rugraff Notified

Both Faulkner and Johnson were happy to notify Donald Rugraff about the blue ribbon award. Rugraff was BHS’s principal from 2008 through spring 2013.

“When the EOC scores started coming in [last spring] I felt very confident we’d receive the award,” said Rugraff, who now works for the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis. “I had a hunch it would happen. Math just blew it out of the water and we showed improvement in all the areas.”

Though he now works elsewhere, Rugraff said it’s gratifying to see the Brentwood School District receiving accolades. Besides the blue ribbon award, in August Brentwood became the only K-through-12 district in Missouri to score 100 percent on the state’s annual performance evaluation of public schools to determine accreditation.

“That’s how I want to leave,” Rugraff said. “I want to leave behind a school with a sustainable plan for success. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career in public education.”

Jerry Schmidt eyes a student’s paper in one of his freshman Algebra I classes. Brentwood High School’s high math scores in standardiized tests helped it win the blue ribbon award. (Photo by Steve Bowman)

2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools from Missouri
Bolivar High School (754 students)
Brentwood High School (244)
Lee’s Summit West High School (1,729)
Messiah Lutheran School (St. Charles)
Nixa High School (1,651)
Sappington Elementary School (Lindbergh School District)
Spokane High School (205)
W.W. Keysor School (Kirkwood)
Willow Springs High School (368)

Click on the following link for more on the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools: