By Natalie Miranda
and Kennedy Zak
Horace Mann Elementary, which serves a diverse population of socioeconomically disadvantaged, English learners and special needs children, has risen to the occasion for its 600 transitional kindergarten through fifth grade students to provide them with an education worthy of being named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
The National Blue Ribbon is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning. The program affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.
The 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognized 353 schools, including 28 schools in California. Horace Mann Elementary has been recognized in the “Exemplary High Performing Schools” category.
This is the first time the school has received this honor. Ten Glendale Unified schools have earned the National Blue Ribbon distinction since the program began in 1982.
“Horace Mann Elementary is a model of excellence in public education. Principal Rosa Alonso and our educators and staff work tirelessly in partnership with families to ensure every child succeeds,” said Glendale Unified School District Board of Education President Jennifer Freemon. “I am proud to celebrate this prestigious recognition with our entire Glendale Unified community.”
Among the 20 elementary schools in GUSD, Mann Elementary has the highest level of students from low socioeconomic status homes at 76% and is among the most linguistically diverse with more than 70% speaking another language at home, more than 40% still designated as English learners, and 20% beginning English learners, according to the school’s Blue Ribbon application.
The school’s application also noted that the number of students who are considered homeless is approximately 9%, with many of their families underserved in terms of social and medical services. Families often turn to the school for help with resources for food, shelter, legal advice, parent education and counseling. Additionally, 15% of its students identify as special needs.
“Horace Mann Elementary is a success story of what can happen when you focus on ‘the essential’ until it becomes transformational. Our educators and staff have a laser-like focus on student achievement, helping every child develop a growth mindset and reach their fullest potential as learners and leaders,” said Principal Rosa Alonso.
“We are honored to be recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School and will continue to strive for excellence every day,” she added.
According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, in the 2021-22 school year, 72% of Mann students met or exceeded the state standard for English Language Arts and 64% met or exceeded the standard for mathematics — a 21% and 22% increase, respectively, from the school’s performance in the 2014-15 school year.
Additionally, Mann scored significantly higher in 2021-22 than GUSD as a whole, which saw 61% students meet or exceed ELA and 52% meet or exceed mathematics.
Mann is one of five Glendale Unified elementary schools participating in the California Community Schools initiative this year. The school was recognized as a California Distinguished School in both 2020 and 2018 and has previously been recognized as a Gold Ribbon School and a Title I Academic Achieving School by the California Department of Education.
In 2022, Mann received a Pivotal Practice Award from the CDE for implementing innovative practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning. Mann was one of the first schools in California to resume in-person instruction following the pandemic shutdown. Mann was also one of 16 schools nationwide to be recognized as a 2020 America’s Best Urban School by the National Center for Urban School Transformation.
The GUSD Board of Education honored the school for its Blue Ribbon status at a meeting on Sept. 26.
Board Vice President Shant Sahakian congratulated the school and Alonso for her leadership.
“We applaud the accomplishments of Principal Rosa Alonso and our outstanding educators, staff, students and families at Mann Elementary,” Sahakian said.
“Together they have fostered a culture of high achievement using a collaborative, data-driven approach to teaching and learning. Principal Alonso and her team have proven what is possible when you set high standards and maintain a relentless focus on ensuring every child has the tools they need to succeed.”
Alonso thanked the Board for recognizing the accolade and praised the school’s teachers, staff and parents for helping the school achieve the distinguished honor.
“The teachers at Horace Mann, our teacher specialists … and our wonderful, classified staff all work together with one goal in mind and that is to do whatever it takes for our students,” Alonso said.
First published in the September 30 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.