Center Point-Urbana High, Tilford Elementary among best in the nation

Schools two of six in Iowa to get National Blue Ribbon distinction

Center Point-Urbana students during a high school football game against Marion in Center Point on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Center Point-Urbana students during a high school football game against Marion in Center Point on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Two schools just north of the Cedar Rapids metro area were named among the best in the nation Monday.

The U.S. Department of Education recognized Tilford Elementary in Vinton and Center Point-Urbana High School as National Blue Ribbon Schools — an honor given to schools with exceptional overall academic performance or those making notable gains in closing achievement gaps.

“It’s for the whole community,” Center Point-Urbana High Principal Rob Libolt said of the recognition. “I look at it as not only the high school’s award, but it’s K-12 because I feel our K-12 school district up here is top notch.”

The high school was recognized for being exceptionally high-performing, Libolt said, which is determined by state assessment scores and other nationally normed tests.

“I’m pretty biased, but I feel I have a pretty great secondary staff here. They put in the time and hours,” said Libolt, who told his staff and the school’s 475 students about the award during a Monday assembly. “I really wanted to impress on them it was the students’ hard work and also the staff’s hard work — it’s more about the students and staff than the district or me.”

Students and staff at Tilford Elementary also heard the good news during an all-school assembly Monday. The school’s prekindergarten through fourth-grade students broke into cheers, Principal Jim Murray said, making for “a special moment.”

Tilford Elementary was recognized for narrowing achievement gaps among its about 500 students, about half of whom are considered low-income, Murray said.


“We have students who are not meeting bench marks and we’re very good at intervention, so most students can close those,” Murray said. “We provide a lot of different small group interventions, which really help meet the needs of all students, not just low-performing but for all students.”

Like Center Point-Urbana’s Libolt, Murray gave credit to his staff for the school’s recognition.

“We have an amazing staff, and I’m including non-certified as well as certified staff,” Murray said. “There’s an amazing culture here, very positive culture. One thing about the staff here is the teamwork is just outstanding, and every challenge is perceived as an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Six Iowa schools were recognized by the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

Other Iowa schools recognized by the department were Resurrection Elementary School of Holy Family Catholic Schools in Dubuque; Hospers Elementary School in the MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District; Sergeant Bluff-Luton Senior High School and Summit Middle School in the Johnston Community School District.

In a video message, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos congratulated this year’s National Blue Ribbon Schools “on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”

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