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INDIANAPOLIS — Three Northwest Indiana public schools have earned "Blue Ribbon" status for academic excellence from the U.S. Department of Education.

The schools are: George Bibich Elementary, Dyer; Solon Robinson Elementary, Crown Point; and Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Valparaiso.

The Blue Ribbon Award recognizes schools with both high-performing students and schools producing significant gains in student achievement, especially among disadvantaged students.

Altogether, seven Indiana schools this year received the designation from the federal education agency out of 349 schools nationwide.

Jennifer McCormick, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction, praised the teachers at each of the Indiana schools for challenging students to reach their full potential.

"Creating an educational environment founded on a commitment to academic excellence supports success in the classroom," McCormick said.

The Blue Ribbon recipients were honored at a Statehouse ceremony earlier this month attended by teachers and administrators from the schools, state lawmakers whose districts include the schools and McCormick.

State Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, said Region residents should be pleased that three of the state's seven winning schools are located in Northwest Indiana.

"This is truly a testament to the hard work by our incredible students, teachers and administrators. They have made our community so proud," Olthoff said.

State Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, who also represents Dyer, noted that schools must meet numerous qualifications to even be eligible for Blue Ribbon consideration.

"It takes a team of outstanding teachers and administrators, as well as driven students, to earn this distinction," Slager said. "These schools have put in the work and it shows."

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, agreed: "We are fortunate to have so many excellent educators in our area," he said.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.