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Third graders at Ellis Elementary study English with ESL teacher Bree Roon. Each of these children has a different native language.

Third-graders at a Memphis elementary school work with an ESL teacher.

J. Zuburzycki

Two Memphis schools win national honors for closing the achievement gap

Two Memphis schools earned a Blue Ribbon designation this year, an honor given by the U.S. Department of Education to just 329 schools nationwide.

Jackson Elementary School and John P. Freeman Optional School were recognized for their work to close the achievement gap between student groups. Schools also can earn the honor for overall academic excellence.

Blue Ribbon status confers no material benefit but is seen as a badge of honor — something that the two local schools are used to. Gov. Bill Haslam chose John P. Freeman as his Memphis stop on a 2013 victory tour to celebrate Tennessee’s scores on a national exam.

What’s happening inside those schools to put them on such a strong test score trajectory? Some insight comes from a Freeman teacher who has been recognized for exposing her students to different cultures. She recently told us: “Learning has to be fun. If students enjoy what they are learning, they will be motivated to keep learning.”

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