The rural, consolidated school I attended Kindergarten through twelfth grade has been named a national Blue Ribbon School. In fact, it's the only school in North Dakota to receive the recognition this year. Barnes County North - North Central campus is a 2010 Blue Ribbon School.
It's because of my own experience at this school that I'm such a big fan of K-12 schools. Education is about a community where all students are valued rather than being sent to large, segmented schools. The school is the community center and folks without kids in the school attend sporting events and concerts.
North Central opened in 1963, in the middle of what was previously farm land, as a consolidation of several small town schools in the area. When I was younger the school seemed huge, but after having returned a handful of times since high school graduation, it is in no way a large school. There is a wing for elementary and a wing for the secondary school. When I was in school it averaged around 200 students K-12. Attendance has since dropped significantly as many farming families move out of the area.
I can't say I got a great education at North Central. I didn't have to take math beyond Algebra I and I spent most of my Senior year playing cards with my friends. But people in the area say it's improved dramatically and there is a much greater emphasis upon attending college. In recent years almost the entire graduating class goes on to at least a two-year college. Some of the teachers at North Central attended there themselves.
In today's age, it may seem odd that students attend the same school for 13 years. A good deal of North Central's students attend only that one school. It's a close-knit community with life-long friendships. It has two key elements to school success: small school atmosphere and every student is known.