Summary of Blue Ribbon School in Iowa


How do you become a Blue Ribbon School when the odds are against you? You don’t make excuses. You assess the needs and try new things.

That is exactly what Madison Elementary in Muscatine, Iowa did.

U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Award

Madison Elementary, under principal Barb Hyman, won the Blue Ribbon Award in the 2003-04 school year and has maintained the high academics.

madison station
Madison Elementary won Blue Ribbon Award – image by

Why the attention to this school? Madison Elementary has the following population:

  • Half the students are on free and reduced lunch.
  • Some students live in motel rooms.
  • One-third are Latino who score far below average nationally.
  • Thirty-three students are learning English as a second language.

What Is Madison Doing Differently?

The Des Moines Register investigated what set Madison Elementary apart from other schools. This school refused to make excuses for poverty or language problems. After evaluating what needs were, the school put the following into action.

A class in Madison – image by
  • Tutoring every Monday for two hours after school. A volunteer works with ESL students.
  • 7:50-8:20 a.m. is set aside daily for a computer program, SuccessMaker. 35 students participate in this reading and math practice program.
  • Regular-education teachers learn strategies to speed learning for the ESL students by taking extra courses.
Tutoring every Monday for two hours after school – image by
  • Students struggling with the language study topics ahead of regular classroom students so they are familiar with what is coming up next.
  • Students meet in small groups monthly with mentors to talk about what it takes to be successful in school. Attendance is stressed in addition to being good citizens and setting goals.
  • Parent meetings are conducted in Spanish to make it easier to discuss issues and goals.


Madison has the following statistics:

  • 97 percent of fourth-graders at Madison were proficient in math. State average is 79 with the 41st percentile considered proficient.
High education made good result – image by
  • 88 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading with a state average of 78 percent proficient.


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