For the second time in five years, Hamilton County Schools is home to the top magnet school in the nation.
At a Magnet Schools of America conference this week, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts earned the distinction of the No. 1 elementary magnet school in the nation.
Normal Park Museum Magnet School received the honor in 2005.
"I heard and went around and told every teacher as soon as possible. It was fun to be the herald of good news," said Cindy Gaston, the school's curriculum coach. "I think it's just a huge validation that what we're doing is right for kids. It means a lot when it's recognized outside the building."
Assistant principal Ronald Moss said the K-8 school's innovative teaching likely is what set it apart.
"We've done great improvements in the school among all the other magnet schools in the United States," he said.
Second-grade teacher Wes Castle said his students had been excited about the possibility of winning ever since officials from the national association visited several weeks ago.
"Our philosophy is that every child can learn," said the teacher, who also has a son in second grade.
* 376: Students
* 30 percent: Minority students
* 25 percent: Students receiving free/reduced lunch
* 10 percent: Exceptional education students
Source: Tennessee Report Card, CSLA
Anita Kapperman has had children at CSLA for 14 years and said her family always has known it's a good school.
Highly popular schools, CSLA and Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences have used a first-come, first-served method of enrolling kindergarten students for years. Parents often camp out in front of the schools, hoping to get their children enrolled.
Knowing what she knows now, Mrs. Kapperman said, she'd camp out for days all over again.
"It's just been a good learning experience for our kids," she said.
In addition to the national recognition, the school will receive a plaque and a $2,500 cash award.
Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.
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