Best Communities for Music Education

Best Communities for Music Education - NAMM Foundation

Big Rapids Public Schools has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education. Now in its 25th year, the Best Communities for Music Education designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, Big Rapids Public Schools answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified by school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music: After two years of music education, researchers found that participants showed more substantial improvements in how the brain processes speech and reading scores than their less-involved peers and that students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school but also to attend college as well. In addition, everyday listening skills are stronger in musically trained children than in those without music training. Significantly, listening skills are closely tied to the ability to: perceive speech in a noisy background, pay attention, and keep sounds in memory. Later in life, individuals who took music lessons as children show stronger neural processing of sound: young adults and even older adults who have not played an instrument for up to 50 years show enhanced neural processing compared to their peers. Not to mention, social benefits include conflict resolution, teamwork skills, and how to give and receive constructive criticism.

For more information about the NAMM Foundation, please visit

US News Best Elementary Schools

US News & World Report Best Elementary Schools

Great elementary and middle schools educate their students from all socioeconomic backgrounds with the goal of setting them up for success. In turn, their students develop the core competencies in state curricula to best prepare them for high school.

U.S. News rankings use the same methodology for all included grade levels. For each state, schools were assessed on their shares of students who were proficient or above proficient in their mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments. Half of the formula assessed the scores themselves and the other half incorporated the test results in the context of socioeconomic demographics. In other words, the top-ranked schools are all high-achieving and have succeeded at educating all their students.

U.S. News analyzed 103,099 pre-K, elementary and middle schools. Riverview Elementary was ranked #32 in the state of Michigan!

US News Best High Schools

US News & World Report Best High Schools

The U.S. News Best High Schools rankings include data on nearly 25,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 18,000 schools were ranked on six factors based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. Big Rapids High School continues to be ranked the best High School in our area!

National Blue Ribbon School

US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Every year the U. S. Department of Education seeks out and celebrates great American schools, schools demonstrating that all students can achieve high levels. Schools are eligible for nomination after five years. The coveted National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. The National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing an entry or flying overhead is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.

Riverview Elementary was awarded this honor in 2020 and Big Rapids High School!

Leader in Me - Lighthouse School

Leader in Me - National Lighthouse School

Brookside Elementary has been recognized as a Leader in Me Lighthouse School! The certification is evidence that schools have produced outstanding results in school and student outcomes, by implementing the process with fidelity and excellence. It is also because of the extraordinary impact that the schools may be having on staff, students, parents, and the greater community.

Today, there are more than 600 schools around the world that have earned Lighthouse certification by meeting the following criteria:

  • The principal, school administration and staff engage in ongoing learning and develop as leaders, while championing leadership for the school.

  • Leadership principles are effectively taught to all students through direct lessons, integrated approaches, and staff modeling. Students are able to think critically about and apply leadership principles.

  • Families and the school partner together in learning about the 7 Habits and leadership principles through effective communication and mutual respect.

  • The school community is able to see leadership in the physical environment, hear leadership through the common language of the 7 Habits, and feel leadership through a culture of caring, relationships, and affirmation.

  • Leadership is shared with students through a variety of leadership roles and student voice leads to innovations within the school.

  • Schoolwide, classroom, family and community leadership events provide authentic environments to celebrate leadership, build culture, and allow students to practice leadership skills.

  • Students lead their own learning with the skills to assess their needs, set appropriate goals, and carry out action plans. They track progress toward goals in Leadership Notebooks and share these notebooks with adults in student-led conferences.

  • Teacher planning and reflection, trusting relationships, and student-led learning combine to create environments for highly engaged learning.

TalentFirst Literacy Leader Award

Literacy Leader Award - TalentFirst

Staff and students at Riverview Elementary School in Big Rapids received a Literacy Leader Award in recognition of their outstanding achievement in reading skills.

TalentFirst, an alliance of West Michigan CEOs, developed the Literacy Leader Awards program following its publication in 2023 of a dashboard tracking third-grade reading scores on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), cross-referenced to economic status, for nearly every elementary school in the state. 

Although statewide 2022-23 M-STEP results showed only 40.9% of third-graders scored proficient or advanced for reading, the data had some bright spots. To highlight schools setting a positive example, TalentFirst worked with a trained literacy coach and field instructor to set the following criteria:

  • Higher M-STEP scores and/or growth and outperforming peers with similar economic status.

  • Implementation of the General Education Leadership Network’s Literacy Essentials.

  • Ongoing professional learning on proven practices aligned with the science of reading.

  • The appointment of dedicated literacy coaches in each building.

  • Provision of appropriate curricula and resources with systematic phonics instruction.

  • The use of formative assessments to influence instruction.

  • Development of detailed school improvement plans with a focus on early literacy outcomes and district alignment among buildings on literacy strategies.

MI HeartSafe School

MI HeartSafe School Award

A HEARTSafe designation recognizes a school’s efforts to prevent sudden cardiac death of the young (SCDY) by preparing for a cardiac emergency. Members of this school community know how to recognize the signs of a sudden cardiac arrest and respond quickly by calling 9-1-1 and using CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) until EMS arrives.

Reward School Award

Michigan Department of Education Reward School

Riverview Elementary has been named a Reward School by the Michigan Department of Education. "Reward Schools" are schools identified annually as being high-achieving public schools. As indicated on the Michigan school data website, Riverview earned a grade of A in the area of student proficiency in 2021-22!

Congratulations to the staff and students at Riverview!