Putnam County

Children’s Reading Center, a public charter school in Palatka, is a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School

Fourth grade students construct volcanoes in science lab at The Children's Reading Center in Palatka.

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. — A Northeast Florida school was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday.

The Children’s Reading Center, a kindergarten through sixth-grade public charter school in Palatka, was among 353 schools nationwide to receive the recognition, which is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups on assessments, officials said.

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The school’s Blue Ribbon profile page says it focuses on small-group instruction and that there are “no boxed curriculums” at the school.

“Our curriculum is unusual in that we use trade books to teach social studies and science through reading,” the profile page says. “Also, we have no textbooks, allowing teachers to research teaching materials to educate our children. Therefore, we focus on a standard for as long as needed until children are comfortable moving forward.”

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The school’s Blue Ribbon application said it has received a grade of “A” from the Florida Department of Education eleven times since 2003.

The Children’s Reading Center said it works to help its students make educational gains while working with external community challenges such as poverty, crime, and health concerns.

“Thirty-five percent of children in Putnam County live in poverty and we have a higher rate of single-parent households, unemployment, and violent crime than the state average. Because of these factors, we often have children who are significantly behind when starting kindergarten,” the school’s application said.

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“The honorees for our 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award have set a national example for what it means to Raise the Bar in education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “The leaders, educators, and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. As the Biden-Harris Administration partners with states and schools to accelerate academic success and transform educational opportunity in this country, we take tremendous pride in the achievements of these schools and their commitment to empowering educators, serving students, and engaging families.”

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students. Nominated schools also complete an extensive narrative application describing their school culture and philosophy, curriculum, assessments, instructional practices, professional development, leadership structures, and parent and community involvement.

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The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,700 schools. Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year.

“National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective and innovative school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation,” education officials said in a statement. “A National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing a school’s entryway or on a flagpole is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.”

Thirteen other Florida schools were recognized as Blue Ribbon schools. Click here to see the full list.

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