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Highland named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2023

Gastonia school named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2023

Gastonia school named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2023 

Highland School of Technology earns the coveted national honor for a second time

For the second time in its 23-year history, Highland School of Technology in Gastonia is a National Blue Ribbon School! 

The U.S. Department of Education announced on September 19 that Highland is among only eight schools in North Carolina and 353 nationwide to earn the coveted honor this year.  Public and private K-12 schools receiving the distinction have shown either outstanding academic performance or progress in closing the achievement gap.  Highland, which is being recognized for its consistent high academic performance, first won the national award in 2017.

Highland will be recognized officially at the National Blue Ribbon School awards ceremony on November 16-17 in Washington, D.C.  A celebration will be held at the school after the national awards ceremony.

“We are incredibly proud to be named a National Blue Ribbon School once again,” stated Highland principal James Montgomery. “Becoming a National Blue Ribbon School is often thought of as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so to earn the award twice is just extraordinary.  Now, as a two-time winner, it proves that Highland School of Technology is among the best of the best and confirms our unwavering commitment to high academic standards, superior student achievement, and student preparation for success in life.”

Montgomery added, “Being chosen as a National Blue Ribbon School is one of the highest, most prestigious honors a school can receive.  It recognizes our students, teachers, staff, and parents as well as our school community for having a long-time commitment to excellence in education.  We have always known that Highland is a model school with world-class students and teachers, and now, this national recognition brings more attention to our continued status as a top-rated public high school in Gastonia, North Carolina.”

Identified as an “Exemplary High-Performing National Blue Ribbon School for 2023,” Highland has consistently ranked and gained regional and state recognition as one of the most successful schools in North Carolina.  The school’s performance grade has been an A or an A+ every year since the state began determining the grades in 2014-2015.  For the 2022-2023 academic year, Highland achieved a 100 school performance score and exceeded all expectations for growth in student learning to earn a 100 academic growth score – two accomplishments that are unprecedented.  Student proficiency on state end-of-course exams is 99.6 percent, and the school has achieved a perfect or near perfect graduation rate every year since the state first calculated the graduation rate in 2006.

Highland serves approximately 550 students in grades 9-12.  When it opened in 2000, it was Gaston County’s only magnet high school. Highland’s comprehensive academic program features three distinct academies: health sciences; business, legal, and information sciences; and manufacturing/engineering technology and graphics.

Highland’s “secret to success” is the school’s concentration on creating and implementing rigorous, personalized, and meaningful lessons, activities, and experiences for students, according to Montgomery.  “We encourage all of our students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, connection makers, and reliable citizens who understand the importance of investing in the world around them with a servant’s heart, positive attitude, and desire to bring about positive change.  We strive to ensure that our students are thinkers and doers both at school and in the community – it is a focus that will serve them well beyond high school and throughout life.”

This is the fifth National Blue Ribbon School distinction (and the second in two years) for Gaston County Schools since the recognition program began in 1982.  In addition to Highland earning the award twice, W.A. Bess Elementary School in Gastonia was selected as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2006 and 2022.  The former Arlington Elementary School was named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2003; Arlington consolidated with Sadler Elementary School when it opened in August 2004.

“It is a great pleasure to congratulate Highland School of Technology on being named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2023,” stated Stephen C. Laws, interim superintendent.  “This is an accomplishment that all schools strive for, but few achieve.  For Highland to earn this recognition twice is remarkable since it does not happen very often.  I am overjoyed to be able to join in congratulating Highland School of Technology, and I look forward to all of us coming together in November to celebrate.  Not only is this award important to the school and school system, it provides bragging rights for our entire community.”

Dr. Laws added, “As a National Blue Ribbon School, Highland is part of an elite group of schools that are considered to be the most outstanding in the United States, and we could not be prouder.  We commend everyone who is and has been associated with Highland School of Technology – this national award belongs to you.”

In announcing this year’s award winners, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona stated, “The honorees for our 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award have set a national example of what it means to raise the bar in education.  The leaders, educators, and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.”

Earning the National Blue Ribbon School recognition affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for – and attaining – exemplary achievement, according to Cardona.  National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.