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Blue Ribbon School Award Recognizes Some of the Best Schools

by Jay Ruppel

posted in Reference and Education : Children Education

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The Blue Ribbon School Awards were originated in 1982 by Terrel Bell, then the Secretary of Education.  As it was originally conceived, it was to honor exemplary secondary schools in the United States.  But it was later changed to honor primary schools as well, and they were alternating years recognizing secondary and then primary schools.

These schools are honored at a ceremony in Washington DC each year, and awarded with a plaque and a flag to signify their status.  About 300 schools are honored nationwide each year.  There have been several schools that have been recognized multiple times, some as many as 4 times over the years.  This is impressive because a school can't be considered if it has won the award in the past five years., and the school must have been in existence for five years.

Schools must qualify for consideration by meeting one of two assessment criteria.  A school that has at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that has demonstrated improved student performance based on their states assessment criteria is one.  The other is for schools that fall into the top 10 percent of the state assessment testing.

To be recognized as a Blue Ribbon school, a school starts with a self-evaluation which is typically a procedure that gathers teachers, parents, students, and community members to look at the school's strengths and weaknesses.  This is often followed by developing strategic plans for the future. The school will submit a written application that documents its current standing and information on its work on achieving the National Education Goals.

A review panel screens the applications and chooses the best candidate schools for site visits.  These site visits include assessments by experienced educators. The review panel then reviews these assessments and makes its recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education, who announces the finals schools selected for the award.

In its first 25 years of existence,  the Blue Ribbon Schools Program was awarded over 5,600 times to 5,200 different schools (some have been recognized more than once).  In the US, there are over 133,000 schools serving grades K-12 that are eligible, including public, charter, private and parochial schools, so approximately 3.9% of schools have been awarded the Blue Ribbon School recognition.  This is certainly an accomplishment that should make any school community proud.

About the Author:

St John the Apostle Catholic School was awarded the Blue Ribbon award in 2008, recognizing it as of the the best Fort Worth Catholic schools. You can see more about the school at

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