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IRONTON -- In what school officials are calling a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, Ironton High School was recognized Tuesday as a National Blue Ribbon School for 2014 for improving test scores of special needs and other students over the past five years.

"The reason we're here today is because of the people in this auditorium," Ironton High School Principal Joe Rowe said. "I'm proud of you."

"This is not something we've done in just one year," Rowe said. "It's based on improvement of math and reading scores over five years. It shows we have a plan that's been working. We're being recognized for the hard work of our teachers and our students."

Ironton High School was among 15 in Ohio and 337 nationwide to receive the award this year, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Education, which determines the award winners. The award is recognition of how schools like Ironton demonstrate that all students can achieve to high levels.

"These great schools are fulfilling the promise of American education, that all students no matter their name or zip code, can flourish when schools provide safe, creative and challenging learning environments," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a prepared release. "National Blue Ribbon Schools are models of consistent excellence and a resource for other schools and districts. We celebrate them for their tireless effort and boundless creativity in reaching and teaching every student."

Ironton High School was the only school in the Tri-State to win the recognition. West Virginia had two schools honored, one in Harper's Ferry and the other in Wheeling.

Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance said the award was the second year in a row the school was celebrating an achievement award for academics.

"This is the equivalent of a state championship in football, golf or basketball," Nance said to students. "This is significant. Great job. It doesn't get much better than this."

Rowe and Ironton High School Band Director Jeff Sanders, a member of the school district's leadership team, will go to Washington D. C., to pick up the award, Nance said.

Theresa Saul, an intervention specialist, said including special needs students into regular classrooms helped raise test scores. The students also get intervention on areas where they need to improve, she said. "We keep trying to get them to pass," Saul said. "We don't give up on them."

"I think it's a prestigious award," said Luke Diamond, an Ironton High School senior. "It's good for our town. Being a small town, we have something to strive for."

Arianna Brown, another senior, said the award "shows how hard we've worked. It's amazing we got such an award."

The announcement was made at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.


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