Two Fairfax County Schools Named 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools

September 24, 2020

Two Fairfax County public schools—Fairhill Elementary School and Poplar Tree Elementary School—have been named 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.  The Fairfax County schools are among seven schools in Virginia receiving the honor this year.

“The staff members and administrators of Fairhill and Poplar Tree are dedicated to helping their students succeed,” said Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand. “They use innovation, dedication, and parent and community involvement to support students.  I congratulate them for being an example of how to best serve students.”

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors high performing schools and schools making exemplary progress toward closing achievement gaps. Poplar Tree Elementary was recognized for overall achievement. Fairhill Elementary was recognized for progress toward closing achievement gaps.

Poplar Tree Elementary was one of the first schools in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to participate in the FCPSon program, assigning personal devices to all students and engaging instructional staff in professional development to help them weave technology into their classes. This technology—along with Project-Based Learning—resulted in a shift to a student-centered learning environment along with offering student leadership opportunities, such as the Paw Tech Squad, whose members support teachers and students with technology and even offer professional development. Teachers engage students in a balanced literacy framework for Language Arts, a workshop model for math, and a hands-on approach for science and social studies. Creative and critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills are encouraged by teachers across the curriculum.

Fairhill Elementary has a diverse student body, including speakers of more than 30 languages who hail from 40 different countries.  To meet the needs of their students, and led by an instructional coach and administrators, teachers use data to guide the use of remediation and enrichment. The special education lead teacher runs a Learning Lab to provide individualized reading instruction to students needing extra support in reading. A Before School Learning Academy offers intense re-teaching and remediation to prepare students for Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests. Mentoring programs provide connections for students in and out of the building.  Adult mentors support students in traditionally underserved groups who are referred by teachers or parents, and sixth graders team up with students in grades K-3 for the Fairhill Friends Forever program.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized more than 9,000 schools since the program began 38 years ago.

The U.S. Department of Education will honor all of the nation’s 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools during a virtual conference and awards ceremony November 12-13. Award-winning schools will receive flags and plaques.