How to Become a National Blue Ribbon School


Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan said “great schools don’t happen by accident. Great schools are created by design. It takes hard work and dedication at all levels of a school community – students, teachers, staff, administrators and families – to make a school truly shine.

Today, we honor 297 schools for their exemplary teaching and learning with our 2022 National Blue Ribbon School (NBRS) awards. Since 1982, ED has awarded approximately 10,000 NBRS awards to more than 9,000 schools across the country, honoring the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities to create safe and welcoming schools where students master content stimulating.

As we celebrate our 2022 winners, here’s a little more about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program and how schools get their awards:

Which schools are honored?

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students achieve very high learning standards or make notable improvements to close the achievement gap.

National Blue Ribbon Schools represent the full diversity of American schools: public schools (including Title I, Magnetic, Choice, and Charter schools) and non-public schools (parochial and independent schools). They are urban, suburban and rural, large and small, traditional and experimental, and serve students from all social, economic and ethnic backgrounds.

How are schools named?

The Chief Public Schools Officers of the 50 states, U.S. territories, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) appoint public schools. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) names up to 50 non-public schools, including parochial and independent schools. States are assigned nomination slots based on K-12 students and schools in each state. At least one-third of public schools designated by each state must have student populations that include high percentages of disadvantaged populations.

Once the ED has validated the nominations, invitations are sent to schools to apply for the award. Nominated schools complete a detailed narrative application outlining their:

  • School Culture and Philosophy
  • Curriculum, Assessments and Teaching Practices
  • Professional development and leadership structures
  • Involvement of parents and the community
  • Ways the school has encouraged and challenged all students to develop to their full potential academically, emotionally, physically, socially and culturally

In which categories are the schools recognised?

Schools are named and recognized in one of two categories based on student performance on state assessments and high school graduation rates:

  • Exemplary high-performing schools are schools with the highest performing students (top 15 percent) in English and math according to state assessments and the highest high school graduation rates . Additionally, the pass scores of all students tested in any subgroup in the most recent year must be in the top 40% of all schools in the state in performance rankings .
  • Schools with exemplary achievement gaps are schools that have made the greatest progress (top 15%) in closing achievement gaps for at least a subset of students in English and math over the past few years. last three to five years on state assessments. High school graduation rates for the student subgroup(s) must also be in the top 40%.

Why are the National Blue Ribbon School Awards important?

The National School Blue Ribbon Awards recognize and validate the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in seeking and achieving exemplary achievement. National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practice for state and district educators and other schools across the country. The NBRS flag adorning a school entrance or flying over campus is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.

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