We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle.
Does excellence matter? In an era where we give our kids trophies for striking out and kudos for feeling good about themselves (if not their actual skills) it begs the question…does excellence matter? The U.S. Department of Education thinks so. Its mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” To that end, the Department of Education created the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which “recognizes schools where students perform at very high levels…”. Every year, the department singles out the cream of the crop – the top performing schools across the country – and designates them Blue Ribbon Schools. Blue Ribbon Schools represent a national standard of excellence recognized by everyone from parents to educators to policy makers. It is not a designation awarded freely. There are strict criteria and a school must qualify to even be considered. Last week, The 2012 Blue Ribbon schools were announced in Washington D.C. by the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Out of hundreds of thousands of schools in the country, only 269 schools received the prestigious honor. In Maryland, there were only 10. Last Friday, Headmistress Sr. Patricia McCarron and Principal Laurie Jones announced to a proud faculty and student body that Notre Dame Prep was one of them. NDP is the only combination middle school/high school and the only independent school in Maryland to win the coveted award. That means NDP ranks in the top 1% (top .25%, actually) of all schools in the country and serves as a model for what an American school should strive to be. It is an outstanding accomplishment and an historic achievement. And NDP earned it.
NDP earned it by committing to the habit of doing what it does best year in and year out. By holding itself to a higher standard and evaluating itself along the way. With each passing year, NDP evolved, grew, and excelled. Today, NDP offers over 170 college preparatory courses, including more than 20 Advanced Placement courses.
Dedicated staff and faculty earned the blue ribbon by demanding the best from themselves and expecting the best from their students. They earned it not by coddling a student but by nurturing her. It is a difference worth noting. Coddling is something you do to appease someone. It demands nothing from either party. Nurturing requires care, attention, and infinite patience. It requires the uncanny knack to recognize the unique gifts of each girl, the skill to coax that potential out and the leadership to give each girl direction. Parents and girls alike have told us it is very nearly impossible for a student not to find a club, program, sport, art program, or area of interest with which to become involved and explore one’s gifts. At its core, NDP understands that the need for a healthy self-image (self-esteem) and the search for excellence are not mutually exclusive. NDP parents understand this as well. They both know that with the right opportunities and tools, with willingness, dedication, and hard work, excellence can be achieved. Deep down, we think the girls know this, too. Certainly senior Becca Meyers knows this. Becca won both bronze and silver medals for swimming in this year’s Paralympics in London. To paraphrase the Ryan Lochte Olympic commercial, “Luck didn’t get Becca to the Olympics. She swam there.”
Likewise, luck didn’t get NDP the prestigious Blue Ribbon. NDP earned it. In November, members of the NDP community will travel to Washington DC to accept the Blue Ribbon award and bring home the coveted Blue Ribbon School flag. Upon return to Hampton Lane, the flag will proudly wave over NDP. When you see it, remember. It stands for excellence.
To view the complete list of 2012 Blue Ribbon winners, click here.