Secretary Duncan kicked off Earth Day today by announcing the 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

Secretary Duncan kicked off Earth Day today by announcing the 2013 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

On Monday April 22 U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with the Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley and Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Bob Persiacepe, announced that Common Ground High School, in New Haven, Connecticut, is among the 64 second annual U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. The selected schools are being honored for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition, 14 districts were honored for the first-ever District Sustainability Award. Duncan, Persiacepe, and Sutley made the announcement at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School, in Washington, DC, one of the 2013 honored schools.

Common Ground was one of three Connecticut schools nominated by the State of Connecticut. Common Ground, the nation’s oldest environmental charter school, is recognized as a Green Ribbon School in recognition of its work to reduce environmental impact, improve health and wellness, and model environmental and sustainability education. The work that earned Common Ground this honor includes:

  • Students master content standards and build environmental literacy through a unique environmental curriculum. In Ecologia, students practice conversational Spanish, nutrition, and leadership as they work in small student-led teams, cooking and eating from our urban farm. In Biodiversity, they work with Yale scientists to measure species diversity in farm, forest, and city, and with landscape architects and the Audubon Society to develop a new campus master plan. These students take on summer internships with The Nature Conservancy across the country, climate research in the Dominican Republic, and more than 75 green jobs with local environmental organizations across New Haven.
  • Over the last five years, the percentage of Common Ground students earning proficient scores on state tests has doubled or nearly doubled in every subject area. Common Ground’s 4-year graduation rate is nearly 10 points above the state average. More than 96% of our last graduating class was accepted to higher education, even though 75% report that they do not have an immediate family member who has graduated from college. More than a third of last two graduating classes reported that they were interested in exploring an environmental field in college.
  • This Summer, Common Ground will begin construction of a model green school building on our campus. Our architect’s initial estimates indicate that the building will qualify for LEED Platinum certification. A solar array will provide approximately 70% of electrical power to the building, and a geothermal system will meet all heating and cooling needs. Rainwater gardens, an educational wetland, and other features will demonstrate low-impact design.
  • Common Ground’s urban farm grew more 7,000 pounds of fresh, sustainable, local produce last year; that produce provides free school lunch to every Common Ground student, and is shared through local farmer’s markets with the community at large.

“Common Ground is so proud to be a leader in the national green schools movement, growing the next generation of successful college students and powerful environmental leaders,” says Liz Cox, Director of Common Ground High School. “The Green Ribbon Schools are creating a new model together: of education that doesn’t compromise between setting the highest academic standards and providing opportunities for active authentic learning, between keeping our kids healthy and challenging them to do their best work, between helping them grow as learners and leaders. We are ready and eager to help other schools who share our commitment in any and every way we can.”

Common Ground was confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 32 state education agencies. The list of selectees includes 54 public schools and 10 private schools. The public schools include seven charter, five magnet and four career and technical schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 40 elementary, 23 middle and 19 high schools are among them, with several schools having various K-12 configurations, from 29 states and the District of Columbia. Over half of the 2013 honorees serve a student body more than 40 percent of which is eligible for free and reduced price lunch. The list of all selected schools and districts, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 78 honorees can be found here.

“Today’s honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green,” said Secretary Duncan. “They are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, performance and equity; and provide an education geared toward the jobs of the future. In fact, the selected districts are saving millions of dollars as a result of their greening efforts. And the great thing is that the resources these honorees are using are available for free to all schools.”

“Preparing students for success in the 21st century economy begins in our schools. The schools and districts being honored today are modeling the best practices in reducing environmental impact and cutting costs, creating a healthier learning environment, and providing students with an education geared toward the jobs of the future,” said Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.

“EPA is proud to join the Department of Education in recognizing our nation’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for their remarkable efforts to create healthier learning spaces and educate students on the importance of environmental protection,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are not only cutting costs thanks to energy-saving practices and use of more efficient technology, but they’re also reducing instances of pollution-related illnesses like asthma, a leading cause of student absence. The students who attend these schools are better prepared than ever to become the next generation of environmental stewards and bring about a healthier, more sustainable future.”

The U.S. Department of Education is looking forward to a third year of the program, and will be publishing updated competition criteria this summer, once again working closely with participating states, who nominate both schools and districts to the federal agency. State education agencies are encouraged to indicate their intent to nominate schools and districts within their jurisdiction in 2014 by August 1, 2013.

More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars in which the 2013 honorees are exemplary can be found here.