Afton Elementary Named a National Blue Ribbon School

Pennsbury’s Afton Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School on September 26th by U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. One of 362 schools rec­og­nized nation­wide (1% of all schools) Afton was hon­ored for its progress in clos­ing achieve­ment gaps among stu­dent sub­groups.

Congratulations to the entire Afton Elementary School com­mu­ni­ty, past and present, for cre­at­ing and sus­tain­ing an exem­plary mod­el of how pub­lic schools can meet the diverse needs of all stu­dents in a col­lab­o­ra­tive and engag­ing man­ner,” said Pennsbury Superintendent, Dr. William Gretzula.  “I am hon­ored to call the Principal, Dr. Joseph Masgai, a col­league, and I con­tin­ue to be inspired by the staff and stu­dents at Afton who have a true love of teach­ing and learn­ing.  In Pennsbury, we have long known of the excel­lence that is present in all that Afton does on behalf of the chil­dren and fam­i­lies they serve.  Now, the state and coun­try know as well.”

Principal Masgai stat­ed, “The entire Afton com­mu­ni­ty is thrilled with being des­ig­nat­ed as a National Blue Ribbon School!  We are burst­ing with Pennsbury Pride and are hon­ored to rep­re­sent excel­lence in edu­ca­tion in Bucks County.  Congratulations are pour­ing in and I tip my hat to the extra­or­di­nary staff, stu­dents, and par­ents that have cre­at­ed a place for Afton Elementary among the 1% of schools that have achieved Blue Ribbon recog­ni­tion in the United States.”

Afton Elementary, a K‑5 school locat­ed in Yardley, is home to 554 stu­dents and 75 staff mem­bers. For the past ten years, ongo­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment that focused on cur­ricu­lum, instruc­tion, and assess­ment has evolved into a school-wide data cul­ture that has trans­formed and sus­tained stu­dent achieve­ment, accord­ing to Dr. Masgai. The past five years of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reflects con­sis­tent double-digit results, well above the state aver­ages in lan­guage arts, writ­ing, math­e­mat­ics, and sci­ence. Evidentiary data reflect that uni­ver­sal stu­dent per­for­mance on the PSSA has been his­tor­i­cal­ly 20 to 40% above state aver­ages. This remark­able growth and achieve­ment are the direct result of teach­ers’ diag­nos­tic abil­i­ties to inter­pret real mean­ing from data and their pre­scrip­tive abil­i­ties to design and deliv­er engag­ing lessons direct­ly guid­ed by data results.

According to Principal Masgai, “The three inter­con­nect­ed lens­es of col­lab­o­ra­tive strate­gic plan­ning based upon data, effec­tive staff devel­op­ment, and a shared instruc­tion­al improve­ment plan are the tools that have set high stan­dards and expec­ta­tions at Afton Elementary School, and, more impor­tant­ly, have shat­tered stereo­types to yield out­stand­ing results for all stu­dents. An empha­sis on these three ele­ments pro­vides an egress to sim­pli­fy work by always focus­ing on the essen­tials of good plan­ning and teach­ing.” The com­mu­ni­ty of Afton teach­ers fol­lows a problem-solving cycle that has evolved into trans­for­ma­tion­al prac­tices that not only cor­re­late with the tenets of National Blue Ribbon Schools, but also cul­ti­vates a cul­ture that pro­motes con­tin­u­ous learn­ing, empir­i­cal cre­ativ­i­ty, and inno­v­a­tive prac­tices.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program rec­og­nizes pub­lic and pri­vate ele­men­tary, mid­dle, and high schools based on their over­all aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence or their progress in clos­ing achieve­ment gaps among stu­dent sub­groups. (Afton’s recog­ni­tion is under the lat­ter cat­e­go­ry.) Every year the U. S. Department of Education seeks out and cel­e­brates great American schools, schools demon­strat­ing that all stu­dents can achieve to high lev­els. More than 9,000 schools across the coun­try have been pre­sent­ed with this cov­et­ed award. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of stu­dents, edu­ca­tors, fam­i­lies, and com­mu­ni­ties in cre­at­ing safe and wel­com­ing schools where stu­dents mas­ter chal­leng­ing con­tent. The National Blue Ribbon School flag grac­ing an entry or fly­ing over­head is a wide­ly rec­og­nized sym­bol of exem­plary teach­ing and learn­ing.

Dr. Masgai will go to Washington, D.C. in mid-November to receive the school’s award plaque and National Blue Ribbon School flag dur­ing a spe­cial cer­e­mo­ny that will hon­or 312 pub­lic and 50 non-public schools for their out­stand­ing achieve­ments. Congratulations to all!