On any given day, a walk through the hallways of Clarksville Elementary School yields a picture of bright-eyed boys and girls eager to learn and their dedicated teachers.
So says Principal Brad Herling, who, along with the school community, is basking in the afterglow of being named a state Blue Ribbon School based on the recent Maryland School Assessment tests. The tests measure achievement in reading and math and determine whether schools meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Clarksville was among six elementary schools to be selected for the honor by the state Department of Education and is competing for the national accolade.
The Blue Ribbon schools will be honored March 14 in Annapolis by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and other dignitaries.
"It is very exciting," said Herling, who has served as principal at Clarksville for seven years. "I got a call from Nancy Grasmick, and she said the state selected us.
"We worked really hard to send off the federal packets, and we will find out in the fall if we are selected."
Pupils at Clarksville have consistently scored well on the state's standardized tests. Clarksville was recognized for being among the top 10 percent of elementary schools in the state based on MSA results.
More than 90 percent of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade pupils surpassed basic skill levels in reading and math on the 2004 state tests.
The school has 677 pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade, and its after-school programs include foreign language classes, jewelry-making and digital media.
Herling said he believes Clarksville is a great school for many reasons, one of which is the school's professional learning community that features three components: collaborative teams, results orientation and action orientation.
The school has eight teams comprised of educators who meet on a regular basis to address curriculum and other matters.
"We work hard within teams and across teams," said Herling.
The results orientation component involves analyzing test results, Herling said.
"We breakdown the test results and reflect on the data," he said. "It allows us to individualize instruction."
The action orientation component of the professional learning community entails teachers examining the best ways to approach teaching, such as co- operative learning, which involves pupils working together on projects.
The teachers meet annually and sign up for specific topics, do research and practice what they learn in the classroom, Herling said.
"It's all linked to school improvement," he said.
Diversity is also an important part of the Clarksville school environment.
"We are a diverse school community, and the PTA has been very helpful in this area," Herling said, explaining that the school recently teamed with Pointer's Run Elementary and Clarksville Middle schools to sponsor an International Day program.
Clarksville's ACE Award, which stands for Achievement, Citizenship and Effort, is a program that involves praising pupils for good work.
He added that the school's technology engineering program is very popular.
"The students build [model] bridges and elevators, and they test their products. They learn problem-solving. It's great," he said.
Fifth-grade team leader Vickie Cohen, who has taught at Clarksville for the past six years, said it has been "the best experience of my teaching career."
"I thoroughly enjoy working with the students," she said. "They are inquisitive and make class discussions very interesting. Each year, I incorporate more activities and information based on student questions."
Parents also play a role in supporting the school.
PTA President Karen Titus said 80 percent of parents participate in the organization.
"It's just a remarkable school," said Titus. "We have a dedicated staff and remarkable parent involvement."