Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

Kanawha County’s Kenna Elementary is again being recognized for its standardized test scores.

The school, near Charleston’s South Hills neighborhood, was named a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School last week.

“I’m just so proud of our staff and students and parents and whole community,” Principal Leah Earnest said. “Everybody just works so hard to make Kenna what it is.”

“I feel lucky to be part of such an amazing school,” Earnest said.

Kenna is one of three Blue Ribbon Schools in West Virginia this year. The others are Panther Creek Elementary, in Nicholas County, and Williamstown Elementary, in Wood County.

Last year, Gov. Jim Justice visited Kenna to congratulate it for being the only school to score in the top category in every measurement of West Virginia’s school accountability system in 2018-19.

Four of the six measurements in that system for elementary schools are based on standardized tests.

Earnest said that, due to the March 2019 deadline for applying for the award, that same 2018-19 school year testing data was used in the Blue Ribbon application. The state didn’t administer standardized tests in the 2019-20 school year amid the statewide pandemic shutdown.

Research has consistently linked higher family income to higher student academic achievement. In the 2018-19 school year, Kenna’s percentage of “low socioeconomic status” students, according to the state Department of Education, was 26%, compared to 49% statewide.

Blue Ribbon Schools fall into one of two categories based on all student scores, scores for student subgroups (such as race) and graduation rates.

Exemplary High Performing Schools are among each state’s highest-performing on standardized tests. All three West Virginia schools were in this category.

The other category, Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools, is for schools that are “among their state’s highest performing in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student [sub]groups and all students,” according to the U.S. Education Department.

The state schools superintendent nominates the schools. The number of nominations is based on the number of kindergarten through 12th-grade students and schools in each state.

Kanawha schools Superintendent Tom Williams said in a news release that, “We are so very proud of Kenna Elementary for achieving this national distinction and congratulate all students and parents, along with the incredible staff. We recognize that this achievement takes work and dedication, and we should absolutely take a moment to celebrate as the learning within each classroom moves forward every day.”

Reach Ryan Quinn at,, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.