Last updated: Mar 02, 2016

3. Anthony Elementary
Leavenworth, Kansas
300 students in grades K through 5


“Bravo!” cheers Pasternak, who gives his highest score to this urban elementary school. Anthony created its “Eat, Exercise, Excel” program to turn itself from a school struggling with low academic performance to one that achieved excellence rankings and a 95% reduction in office referrals—all in a year, largely by emphasizing fitness and nutrition.

On the fitness front, Anthonys students get almost an hour of activity every day through three 30-minute PE classes per week and a daily 45-minute structured recess, during which students rotate between three different games (participation is mandatory). This active break is a hit among the kids. And teachers have noted numerous benefits, including increased attentiveness after breaks and less bullying during recess. “This program shows the full benefits that can be derived from increasing physical activity,” says Caputo, who gave the school her only 10.

Another innovation: Lunch is eaten in classrooms amid a family atmosphere that emphasizes conversation. “The noise level is low, making this the ideal time for teachers and students to build positive relationships,” principal Janine Kempker says. This impressed judge Amy Lanou: “Anyone who has visited a school cafeteria knows that the loud and rushed atmosphere isnt conducive to healthy eating, good digestion, or nutrition education.”

Also, daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) vitamins are available to students (with parental permission), a program used by 70 percent of school families.