Award Winning Edmond North
What does it take for a school to consistently achieve a paramount level of success? Of the 287 schools selected throughout the nation, Edmond North High School was one of seven schools in Oklahoma to earn the prestigious Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Award. Listed in Newsweek as one of the nation’s top high schools, North excels remarkably in the areas of academics, music, fine arts, athletics, and other extracurricular activities.
“You don’t become a Blue Ribbon school without hard work,” said Dr. Brenda Lyons, Associate Superintendent of secondary Edmond Public Schools. “The important thing is that you meet the needs of the kids. We understand kids and what it takes to see what’s right for them.”
Motivated students, determined teachers, and a combination of meticulous planning instruction and diverse teaching strategies contribute to success in education.
“The students are the ones that work hard to learn,” said Principal, Jan Keirns. “We have employed assessment techniques that make sure they are learning the content.”
The No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools that have shown significant academic improvement and schools of excellence that continue to be exceptional.
“This award is well-deserved and acknowledges the excellence in academics that North has devoted itself to,” Keirns said. “We really strive to ensure that all students have academic challenges that fit each individual.”
At North, students are encouraged to take advanced placement courses, which present rigorous academic challenges as well as time management and study skills for college preparation.
Keirns places a strong emphasis on teacher accountability and “bell to bell instruction,” meaning students begin work as soon as they walk into the classroom. “There’s no down time,” she said.
Teachers also learn from each other by exchanging ideas, evaluating their own teaching methods and discussing students’ academic strengths and weaknesses.
“To maintain this level of success, leadership is crucial,” stressed Keirns. “We want teachers to have the time to research and study the data, to know how to use the information and to improve instruction. We intentionally organize our scheduling to provide time for teachers to work and collaborate with each other.”
The curriculum and instruction at North is designed to be equally challenging for all level classes. Sharing the belief that all students are capable of learning, Keirns and staff aim to keep students with disabilities in mainstream classes. Special needs students are exposed to the curriculum through differentiated classroom instruction and are given the necessary assistance and reinforcement to receive the same education as the other students.
“Successful schools lead to successful jobs because students are given the right tools,” said Keirns. “We hire the right kind of people who believe in the philosophy that academic excellence is expected. When you give students the opportunity to learn and give them the teachers that work hard in ensuring that every student has the opportunity to learn, then they are going to get there.”
Setting goals and high standards empower students to accept challenges and perform the best they can in all areas. North creates a conscious balance between fun and instruction, providing an abundance of academic learning and extracurricular programs that drive students to explore their passions.
“What I love about North is that we key in on preserving instructional time while still honoring and supporting the activities,” Keirns said.
Students are actively involved in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), a student based marketing program. Fostering career oriented minds and raising civic awareness, DECA enables students to gain experience in leadership, business, and education.
Parents also play a pivotal role in the school’s academic success. Phone call communication by staff and an on-line “parent viewer” allow parents to keep track of and monitor their child’s progress. “All of our schools are high achievers and we are very fortunate to have a supportive community of parents who have helped out in so many ways,” said Lyons.
While the Blue Ribbon recognition is certainly a positive incentive for the school’s morale, Edmond North High School continues to be a paradigm of student success enriched by the dedicated efforts of teachers, parents, and administration.
“Our goal is to have all students learn to be scholars and to find their passion and apply themselves to do their absolute best,” said Keirns. “High schools are a place where kids practice to be adults with a lot of safety netting. They are still kids, but they have an opportunity to grow, develop, and go as far as they want to go. We are going to give them the foundation to do that.”