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Windber residents tour the STEM room at Windber Area High School/Middle School on Feb. 26, 2017.

WINDBER – Rambler blue has a whole new meaning this week.

Windber Area High School was named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon Program Award recipient, gaining recognition as an “exemplary high performing” school by the U.S. Department of Education.

The high school was just one of three statewide to earn the recognition, results show.

The school was chosen from a field of 37,000 high schools across the nation, according to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos,

“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” DeVos told winners nationwide through a video posted on the department’s Website.. “As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning.”

The U.S. Department of Education has been awarding Blue Ribbon honors since 1982. The ribbons are awarded in two categories.

One recognizes schools for closing year-to-year achievement gaps.

Windber Area earned its ribbon in the other category – as a “high performing” school.

To meet that standard, schools must have the highest achieving students, according to their state assessments, and rank among the highest in school graduation rates, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Windber Area’s high school Keystone Exam Scores were either first or second in all exam categories – algebra, biology and literature – across the four-county Intermediate Unit 8 last year.

Superintendent Joe Kimmel noted that the high school’s average SAT scores were just as strong, finishing 1st in 2017 and 2nd in 2018.

“We’re really proud of the accomplishments and accolades we’re seeing from the hard work our students and staff put in,” Kimmel said. “We already knew Windber was special – and I think this latest recognition reinforces it.”

The school is planning a series of activities and events in November to celebrate the honor, Kimmel said.

“This is an awesome achievement,” he said. “We want to enjoy the moment.”

The G.W. Carver High School of Engineering, a specialized Philadelphia “magnet” public school, and Mars Area High School, were the only other Pennsylvania schools to earn the honor.

Three Pennsylvania public elementary schools were also recognized and well as five private schools. None are from the Cambria-Somerset region.

Over the past decade, just three local schools have received Blue Ribbons – including Windber’s elementary school in 2012.

Conemaugh Township Elementary earned the honor in 2010 and Portage Area Junior-Senior High was awarded a blue ribbon for its achievement gap progress in 2015.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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