The Best Public Elementary Schools in America

by TBS Staff
TheBestSchools.org

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Elementary school marks a life-changing experience for children. Regardless of their preschool experience, on the first day of kindergarten, each child walks into a new world — a world that excites growing minds, a world that can intimidate, and a world that fundamentally forms a child’s impression of learning and education.

We believe the schools in this ranking exemplify the very best in elementary education. The aim of this ranking is to showcase just how good US education at the elementary-level can be. This is an American success story!

Some schools on this list may seem to have unfair advantages (better resources, more money, etc.). The common denominator, however, is that all schools listed here, working with what they have, create environments that are highly effective at stimulating learning and fostering personal growth.

We paid attention to aspects of the schools that we believe help create such effective environments. The schools on this list are not solely concerned with academics. In addition, these schools pay attention to variety, innovation, fun, and strong parental and community involvement.

This is a ranking article, sure, but we hope the take-away lesson is not whether a school was #20 or #41, #1 or #50. Every high-performing school on this list deserves your attention! These schools show what highly-motivated faculty, staff, parents, and students can achieve by raising expectations, rewarding hard work, and building character.

Top 10 Best Elementary Schools

  1. Aukamm Elementary
  2. Mason-Rice Elementary
  3. Little Harbor Elementary
  4. Bay Head Elementary
  5. Frost Elementary
  6. Marion Cross School
  7. Merion Elementary
  8. Marais des Cygnes Valley Elementary
  9. Hawk Ridge Elementary
  10. Crawford Elementary

The Best American Elementary Schools

1. Aukamm Elementary School

Wiesbaden, Germany

Some of the most overlooked people in the military are the children who travel with their military parents from base to base, even if it is in a foreign country. The Department of Defense understands the special challenges that children in these circumstances face and provides education on the base when local schools are not available.

Currently, there are 250 elementary students in grades K through five attending Aukamm Elementary on the Wiesbaden Air Base. The base was originally an air base for the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

One of the classrooms at AES is a four and five multi-grade class. The other ten classes comprise kindergarten through fifth grade single grade classes. Students participate in P.E., music, art, Spanish, media center instruction, and technology instruction.

Students also participate in a Host Nation program, which provides cultural instruction and language acquisition opportunities so that students can truly develop an appreciation for their host country. Host Nation classes and activities are taught by host nation teachers. It is a unique feature of the Department of Defense Dependent Schools elementary program.

The 102nd Signal Brigade volunteers as mentors and computer club support. They also volunteer at many activities held at or by the school. Students can participate in student council, sewing and crafting, art club, gardening club, drama club, cooking club, and music club.

While the school is part of the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the school is supported by the Kaiserslautern School District.

2. Mason-Rice Elementary

Newton Centre, Massachusetts

In the 90’s, Massachusetts set out to reform public education to bring about a student population that was better educated and performed better on achievement tests. Nowhere is this appreciated more than at Mason-Rice Elementary (MRE) where the third, fourth, and fifth graders outperformed all of the peers in their state.

In addition to managing almost perfect scores in math and reading in all grades, a large percentage of those passing also scored high enough to be considered advanced. Furthermore, MRE met all goals for the year, achieving adequate yearly progress.

Serving students between Kindergarten through fifth grade, students enjoy art, music, P.E., and instruction in instrumental music. Students have the opportunity to feature the books they are reading, record what they have learned from a book, and record discussions they have had about books they have read. Students can also sign up for a lunch on Fridays in which a book will be discussed.

Group instrument lessons are offered to fourth graders who present one formal concert at the end of the year. Teachers schedule other informal performances as the students progress.

3. Little Harbor Elementary School

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Approximately 400 students in grades K through five attend Little Harbor Elementary School. 23 teachers provide instruction that includes both reading and writing workshops, word study, and regular academic classes based upon Common Core objectives, and the Follow the Child framework.

Students demonstrate their work through portfolios, projects, competitions, and artwork displays. Students attend field trips including one to the Living History Museum. Students and parents enjoy extra activities throughout the year, such as a spaghetti supper, Fall Festival, Halloween Parade, a Book Fair, and a Barn Dance for students.

Elementary students receive tutoring from high school students through a program called Amigos. Students have a student council, chess club, and a school store. Fifth graders get to attend an Environmental Camp and all grades have intramural sports.

Students in New Hampshire are tested in reading and math in 3rd through 5th grades. They are tested in writing in fifth grade, and science in fourth grade. All of Little Harbor’s grades taken together give them the second highest average of all schools in the state.

4. Bay Head Elementary

Bay Head, New Jersey

Designated by the state as a Reward School based upon superior academic excellence, Bay Head Elementary serves students in grades K through 8. Students have the opportunity to play on several sports teams in basketball, softball, soccer, and tennis. Additionally, students can participate in a garden club, aviation club, safety patrol, magic club, student council, art club, Kid Fit Club, chess club, and homework club.

Students receive peer tutoring in a program called Positive Partners where older students are paired with younger students. Partners participate in activities together throughout the year. All students take classes in Spanish, P.E., music, and art.

All classes go on two or more field trips per year. Students of elementary age have access to lap top computers for individual work, and teachers have Smart Boards and Smart Responders for learning through group engagement.

Out of district students are accepted, but students must apply and pay tuition. An aftercare program is provided on regular school days. Students can receive academic help at that time or just relax with friends or play games. There is a charge for the after school program, but parents only have to pay for days their children stay after school and utilize the program.

5. Frost Elementary

Frostburg, Maryland

The EPE Research Center, who rates state educational systems based upon how well the state does across all its districts, gave to Maryland alone a B+; all other states were given a lesser grade. Frost Elementary had the fourth highest test average combining all state assessment scores in math, reading, and science, for grades three through five. Frost serves students in grades K through 5.

Students at Frost Elementary enjoy more than just academic classes and the accolades of those who rate schools. The Parent Teacher Organization partners with Frost to provide students with enrichment activities including pumpkin decorating and a trunk or treat event complete with a D.J. For Veterans Day, local veterans came to the school, read a book to classes and shared some of their experiences with the students. The choir, comprised of 3rd through 5th grade students, performed a concert in their honor.

Looking to the community, students at Frost celebrated the Kids-Helping-Kids campaign during the week of October 27 through October 31 to raise awareness about others in need and to collect canned goods to benefit the Frostburg Food Pantry.

6. Marion Cross School

Norwich, Vermont

Frequently schools get caught up in the need for high scores on math and reading and give less attention to other subjects which may be tested, but that are not used to determine a school’s adequate yearly progress. This is not true at Marion Cross School where fourth and fifth graders did very well on the science and writing tests, respectively, narrowly outperforming other top schools in the state.

Students study the normal academic courses, but also take lessons in French, health, environmental education, technology, P.E., music, art, and library. Students have several innovative art projects to complete throughout the year. Many of these projects are featured on a special art website, displaying a wide array of creativity and talent. From insect drawings from first graders to group projects in fifth grade where each group is assigned a national park to depict in their drawings, art is integrated into other subjects in the curriculum, especially science.

Through the LEEEP (Learning about the Environment through Experiential Education Projects) Program, students complete outdoor projects to teach them about, and give them an appreciation for, the natural world through environmental inquiry.

7. Merion Elementary School

Merion, Pennsylvania

Merion Elementary School has a history of excellence. The school has over 500 students in grades K through five in a campus that spans over eight acres with specialized learning support classrooms, an auditorium, gym, cafeteria, playground, playing fields, and a library/media center.

There are 23 classroom teachers and additional teachers for special education, P.E., art, library, music, and the gifted and talented program. The school also employs two literacy specialists and all students second grade and over take Spanish lessons every week with one to two language teachers.

Students at Merion are accustomed to using technology in the classroom and are given multiple opportunities every week to use wireless technology and/or the computer lab. Additionally, students in fourth and fifth grade may participate in band, orchestra, and/or choir. There are also after school athletics for interested students.

Although the school first opened its doors in 1925, the school has undergone several changes. Major renovations took place in 2003 so that the school was updated and modernized.

In the summers there are camps for young writers and readers. During the school year, the school district provides a subscription to DreamBox, which allows students to develop skills in STEM subjects both at school and at home. Parents are encouraged to have their children use the program at home and parents are given tips and ideas on how to work with their children in math to make it engaging and fun.

Students at Merion have helped raise over four thousand pounds of food for Philabundance, a charity providing food to the needy.

8. Marais des Cygnes Valley Elementary

Quenemo, Kansas

The Marais des Cygnes Valley School District has an elementary school and a middle/high school. The elementary school serves students in grades K through 5. Some teachers work in both schools such as the music teacher who recently acquired five acoustic guitars for use in music classes, giving students exposure to new and different types of music in both the upper and lower schools.

Fourth grade science students received a perfect score on the Kansas State Assessment of Science. Third and Fourth graders received perfect scores on the Kansas State Assessment of Math. Third and Fourth grade students received a perfect score on the Kansas State Assessment of Reading. All other scores were in the high 90s.

It is of little surprise, then, that Marais des Cygnes Valley Elementary received National Recognition from the US Department of Education as a 2014 Blue Ribbon School as well as an additional award as an exemplary school for closing the gap in achievement.

Every week, each grade elects a student of the week. Parents of students given this honor are then invited to come to the school and have lunch their children to celebrate this honor.

9. Hawk Ridge Elementary

Charlotte, North Carolina

Because of their almost-perfect achievement on state-administered standardized tests, Hawk Ridge has been named an Honor School of Excellence from the state of North Carolina.

Students are given the opportunity to participate in activities such as the Movie Making Club, the Fishing Club, Reader’s Theater, the Instrumentation Club, the Math Olympiad, Sports Broadcasting, as well as many other activities that are parent-sponsored.

Nearly fifty percent of the teachers have master’s degrees and almost fifty percent are National Board-certified. Weekly newsletters from the principal also include parent tips. Parents are a vital part of Hawk Ridge. In the 2013–14 school year, they raised over $30,000 to buy smart boards for the classrooms. Their efforts not only make extracurricular activities possible, but they also volunteer for many other activities such as Night of the Arts, the Science Fair, and the annual Multicultural Celebration.

Hawk Ridge is not satisfied with an ordinary curriculum. To enhance learning, the curriculum is being buoyed by the Seven Habits of Happy Kids. These are listed on the technology tools website along with several links to helpful websites and projects created by students. Also, for each grade there is a list of links that are tailored to the students of that grade to help them in a variety of skills and subjects.

10. Crawford Elementary School

Fairbanks, Alaska

Located on Eielson Air Force Base, the majority of students are military dependents, but students from Moose Creek also attend. There are approximately 300 students in grades three through 6. The school opened in 1997 and was named after Robert McArthur Crawford who penned the Air Force song, best known by the first line: Off we go into the wild blue yonder.

The Crawford library has an online search engine by keyword, title, author, subject, or series. The library also provides online links for homework help and links to the Accelerated Reader Program and the ThinkCentral website where students can access coursework in social studies, world languages, reading and language arts, math, science, and health.

Students have lessons in music and one teacher is dedicated to an extended learning program. There is a special education program and intervention specialists for academics and behavior.

Methodology

Only schools that included grades three through five were considered for this list. Moreover, we focused on the scores and achievements of only the third, fourth, and fifth grades. When looking at state assessment scores, all state-administered tests were considered in a school’s overall average for grades three through five.

Many schools on this list earned Blue Ribbon awards from the Department of Education. Schools have to apply and qualify in order to be chosen for this award. Schools cannot reapply for five years, so obtaining this award is a significant achievement no matter the year in which it was received. America has approximately 70,000 public elementary schools, and thousands of these schools apply annually for the award. But each year only about 300 receive the coveted Blue Ribbon.

This list of schools includes a few not located in America’s 50 states (Alabama through Wyoming). All out-of-country schools on this list are run by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). They are located on military bases and operated by certified teachers. The schools have AdvanceEd accreditation and are recognized by the US Senate as American schools.

Life for military children can be challenging because they must frequently move from base to base. Correspondingly, teachers and administrators at these schools face the challenge of an ever-changing student body. Yet such challenges also present unique opportunities, such as linguistic and cultural enrichment through a Host Nation Program. This is why a DoDEA school is ranked number one on this list.

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