This year, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized more than 250 public schools and 50 private schools
across the country for their commitment to excellence and their ability to overcome outstanding odds to properly educate their students. These schools have received the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction, an award reserved for schools that boast students who meet and maintain high educational goals
. The current winners are listed on the U.S. Department of Education website
What is a National Blue Ribbon of Distinction?
According to the National Blue Ribbon website
, "The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their state or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement."
The award has been given out since 1982, evaluating student achievement with measurable characteristics that help identify not only the high achievers, but also those schools that have achieved despite difficult odds. The award is particularly focused on schools that have overcome hurdles like poverty
, tight budgets
and high teacher turnover to produce student achievement well beyond their means.
Benefits of the National Blue Ribbon Program
The National Blue Ribbon of Distinction serves three different purposes. First, it identifies the highest achieving schools in the country, using standards that correctly interpret student performance and improvement. Second, the program makes criteria available to all schools to help them evaluate their current quality status and find appropriate places for improvement.
Finally, the National Blue Ribbon program facilitates the exchange of information between the award-winning schools and those looking for solutions to their own obstacles. According to the Temple Laboratory for Student Success website
, the recognition some schools receives stimulates the efforts of other schools to achieve the high standards as well. Because proven programs are shared among all schools, lower achieving institutions have models to help them raise their own bar and vie for the award in subsequent academic years.
Eligibility for National Blue Ribbon Status
Schools that are interested in achieving National Blue-Ribbon status must meet one of the following criteria, depending on the category the school falls into:
- High Performing Schools – These are the schools that are ranked high performing based on state assessments in both reading and mathematics. To be eligible, these schools must score at the highest performance level on tests referenced by the national norms in the most recent year tested.
- Improving Schools – These schools have at least 40% of their student body coming from disadvantaged situations, and they are rated by improving students to high levels on both reading and mathematics assessments according to national norms in the most recent year tested.
Both private and public schools can be eligible for the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction if they fit into one of these two categories. Typically, chief state school officers make nominations to the U.S. Department of Education, and the number of schools that can be nominated is directly proportionate to the state's population. Other organizations that may nominate schools for the National Blue Ribbon award include the Council for American Private Education, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.
Charter Schools Making the Grade
Of the 254 public schools that received the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction in 2010, 14 were public charter schools
. These institutions are governed by a private charter, but receive public money like any other public school. Charter schools receive waivers from the public school district in exchange for promising to produce higher academic results. These schools are typically monitored for anywhere from three to five years to ensure they keep up their end of the bargain in terms of academic achievement.
PR News Wire
reports that the 14 charter schools receiving the National Blue Ribbon of Distinction this year span the nation, from a school in Alaska to one in South Carolina. Peter C. Groff, president and CEO for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said, "Public charter schools are among the nation's top schools, and the Alliance congratulates the educators and families who have worked to bring high-performing schools into their communities."
The National Blue Ribbon of Distinction is a prestigious award that exemplifies excellence in education. Students who attend these schools have the satisfaction in knowing their educators and staff are equipped to help them succeed academically, no matter what their background and income level might be. Thanks to the sharing of resources, schools that did not make the distinction can also improve their standards using the models schools set before them as a guide.