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Pleasant Valley High School receives blue ribbon from US Department of Education
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Pleasant Valley High School receives blue ribbon from US Department of Education

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Pleasant Valley High School has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its efforts to attain academic excellence and close achievement gaps.

The high school is among the schools listed as this year’s winners in the department’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. The 39-year-old program acknowledges schools that demonstrate their student bodies’ ability to reach high levels of achievement.

Darren Erickson, the principal, said the high school's work to maintain the quality of its education during the pandemic was a big part of it — including staff learning how to use the tools needed for remote learning.

“We were able to start the school year, I thought, as prepared as anyone,” Erickson said.

The high school staff had a learning curve, the same as those at other schools, but they did a great job of getting their curriculum down to the core things the students needed to learn, he said.

The high school focused on the social-emotional connection with its students and maintaining its school culture, Erickson said. The staff tried to make the learning process more about the learning and the connection with students than about the grade.

Its inclusion of students in its processes was another key, he said.

“We don’t want school to be something done to them, but something done with them,” Erickson said. “So I think working with some great kids and having them help guide the direction and vision of the school has been very important to keep us moving forward.”

Pleasant Valley’s high school was one of five schools recognized in Iowa this year. Nationally there were 325 recognized schools covering every grade level and many types, including public, private and charter.

The school was nominated by the state, district spokeswoman Beth Marsoun said.

Erickson credited the entire Pleasant Valley community with helping attain the recognition.

“This is not the school’s award," he said, "it’s the community’s award."


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