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Star Tribune writers tracking education issues

Five Minnesota schools named Blue Ribbon schools

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded five Minnesota schools with the prestigious Blue Ribbon recognition.

The national honor is given to the highest performing schools for their efforts in closing the achievement gap.

Seven Minnesota schools received recognition for their work last year.

The five Minnesota schools who made the cut this year are: Parker Elementary School in the Elk River Area School District, Friendship Academy of Fine Arts, Birchview Elementary School in the Wayzata Public School District, DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science, and St. Anthony Village Senior High in the St. Anthony-New Brighton School District.

"We’re so proud of the Minnesota schools receiving recognition on a national stage," Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Department of Education commissioner, said in a statement. "Minnesotans across our state should celebrate the incredible work going on in our schools by our students and teachers."

Minnesota school officials will accept their awards on behalf of their schools at a ceremony taking place in Washington, D.C. in November. More than 270 public and 50 private schools will be recognized at the two-day event. 

St. Paul school hopes bird can help its popularity

Gathering last week to hear a report about school climate and other weighty matters, St. Paul school board members also found buried deep in their meeting agenda a small item with a big aim.

They were asked to sign off on a school community's choice of a Roadrunner as the mascot for Crossroads Elementary Science + Montessori Schools.

That may seem trivial to some. But the state's second-largest district has enrollment worries, and in making its case to board members, district administrators noted that the new name "will allow the school to increase its identity and effectively market the program to the broader community."

Every little bit helps.

While enrollment in St. Paul schools held fairly steady from 2012-13 to 2014-15, it saw a more noticeable decline in 2015-16, from 37,844 to 37,605 students. That's less than a 1 percent drop, but still a big issue, given the district had to resolve a projected $15 million budget gap for 2016-17.

More students bring in more revenues.

With its bird, the Crossroads community has taken one small step to build its numbers. It hopes people notice, too, that the Roadrunner in the school's logo is not just quick, but wears a headband, too. Effort pays off.