The Hill-Freedman World Academy in Northwest Philadelphia was honored Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School.
This is the second time the selective-admission school has been awarded a Blue Ribbon, with the first being in 2006. It is the only District school to receive the award this year.
“The School District of Philadelphia is tremendously proud of Hill-Freedman World Academy on achieving this great honor,” said Superintendent William Hite in a statement. “Winning a National Blue Ribbon School Award once is quite an accomplishment; winning the award twice is an exceptional feat. This is a wonderful day for the Hill-Freedman school community. On behalf of the entire District, I congratulate Principal Anthony Majewski and all students, faculty members and families.”
Schools can win in two categories: for overall high achievement (“Exemplary High Performing School”) and for reducing the achievement gap among ethnic and socioeconomic groups (“Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School”). Hill-Freedman won for overall high achievement.
Nearly two-thirds of Hill-Freedman’s student body is economically disadvantaged, according to the Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles. The school is more than 90 percent African American. It received a score of 87.7 out of a possible 100 under the state’s evaluation system, which considers a number of factors including achievement test scores.
Hill-Freedman uses the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum. In 2013-14, more than 90 percent of students scored proficient in math, reading and writing, and 75 percent in science.
The school also has a high number of students in special education, about 30 percent. Its mission includes creating “specialized programs for students with complex support needs that encompass a wide variety of exceptionalities and intellectual abilities, including autism, language impairments, and intellectual, multiple, and physical disabilities.”
Majewski has spearheaded the school's expansion from a middle school to a high school. This year, it will include grades 9 and 10 and is planning full enrollment to total more than 600 students.
“Staff members, student and families are the keys to success here,” said Majewski in a statement. He has served as principal of the school since 2007. “I am fortunate to be around individuals who are not satisfied with the status quo. I am super proud of the staff and students. This is their achievement.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools on Tuesday. In total, 14 Pennsylvania schools were Blue Ribbon winners out of the 335 winners nationwide.
Area schools that were also recognized as Exemplary High Performing Schools included:
- Merion Elementary School in Merion Station, part of the Lower Merion School District.
- Mount Saint Joseph Academy, a private Catholic school in Flourtown.
- Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, a private Catholic school in Chestnut Hill.
Franklin Towne Charter High School in Philadelphia was recognized for progress in closing the achievement gap.
Public schools are nominated for the award by the secretary or commissioner of education in their state. Private schools are nominated by the trade group Council for Private Education.
All 2014 Blue Ribbon Schools will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10 and 11.
The Blue Ribbon award comes at a time when Hill-Freedman is struggling to find a permanent home for its high school expansion, now housed in the old Kinsey Elementary school building. Its inaugural 9th grade last year crowded into the middle school in Mount Airy.
Hill-Freedman, which changed its name to Hill-Freedman World Academy, has been accredited Middle Years International Baccalaureate School and an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program Candidate School.
Shannon Nolan is an intern at the Notebook.