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U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

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Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What are the benefits of being selected a Green Ribbon School?
  2. What are the benefits of attempting to achieve the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Pillars?
  3. What assistance will be available to schools and states?
  4. What will the impact of ED-GRS be on students, schools, communities and education?
  5. What are the ED-GRS Pillars and Elements?
  6. How would I know if my school is eligible?
  7. How does my school apply?
  8. How many schools does my state nominate?
  9. My school is a Department of Defense Education Activity school; can it be nominated for a Green Ribbon?
    My school is a Bureau of Indian Education-funded school; can it be nominated for a Green Ribbon?
  10. Do private schools qualify?
  11. Once my school applies to ED, what is the review process and timeline for hearing whether we won?
  12. Timeframe for 2012-2013 Green Ribbon Schools
  13. Who do I contact about ED- Green Ribbon Schools?
  14. Where can I find resources to help my school progress in the three Pillars?
  15. Please note

1. What are the benefits of being selected a Green Ribbon School?

The Green Ribbon Schools award will likely confer many of the benefits that Blue Ribbon Schools currently enjoy. That is, the schools will be nationally recognized as some of America's most successful schools—this time, in performance related to reducing their environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education.

Schools selected as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools may report a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment at their school, as is the case with National Blue Ribbon Schools. They may be sought out as mentors to others schools within and outside their school districts, and/or may find raising funds and recruiting students is a little easier.

Communities sometimes report that the National Blue Ribbon award makes their neighborhood a more desirable place to live because parents want their children to attend a National Blue Ribbon School—and real estate agents often use the National Blue Ribbon award as a selling point for those neighborhoods. Over time, this may become the case for ED-Green Ribbon Schools as well.

Each year, all winning schools are invited to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to celebrate their success, share information and receive a plaque and banner to commemorate their achievement.

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2. What are the benefits of attempting to achieve the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) Pillars?

There are benefits to all schools moving toward the three ED-GRS Pillars. National studies and existing green schools programs have linked utility savings to schools' cost savings; school environmental health to student and staff productivity; student wellness to higher achievement; and environmental education to increased student engagement, improved student performance, enhanced critical thinking and reduced behavioral problems.

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3. What assistance will be available to schools and states?

ED-GRS provides technical assistance to schools and states, including: 1) a clearinghouse of resources on green schools; 2) a Framework and sample application for evaluation of nominees; and 3) ongoing communications with states, non-profits and federal agencies to facilitate the dissemination of best practices.

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4. What will the impact of ED-GRS be on students, schools, communities and education?

ED-GRS recognizes a handful of the highest performing schools and districts in the nation each year. It is the first comprehensive federal direction-setting initiative encompassing the three institutional roles of schools: 1) reduced environmental impact and costs; 2) improved health and wellness; and 3) effective environmental and sustainability education. It then uses these exemplary schools to communicate their best practices and the critical resources that any school can employ. By communicating best practices and available resources, the recognition award is having a broad impact on students, teachers and instruction in all schools, not just a handful of annual honorees.

The award is also having an impact on how government works. As a result of the award, education, natural resource, health and energy agencies in both state and federal governments are working together like never before to implement nominee selection processes and, in doing so, bringing more resources and expertise into schools.

Finally, the award has had an impact on the non-governmental groups that have spearheaded the green schools movement. ED-GRS has provided facilities, health and environmental education non-governmental organizations with a clear, comprehensive definition of green schools, allowing the many different green schools programs across the country to unite behind shared goals.

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5. What are the ED-GRS Pillars and Elements?

The pillars and corresponding elements are broad reaching and inclusive of many of the elements of existing green schools programs, although they may be stated slightly differently. They are:

  1. Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs

    • Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
    • Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
    • Reduced solid and hazardous waste production through increased recycling, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste; and
    • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.

  2. Improved Health and Wellness

    • An integrated school environmental health program based on an operations and facility-wide environmental management system that considers student, visitor and staff health and safety in all practices related to design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of schools and grounds; and
    • High standards of nutrition, fitness, and quantity of quality outdoor time for both students and staff.

  3. Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education

    • Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;
    • Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy; and
    • Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills, and students' application of these to address sustainability and environmental issues in their community.

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6. How would I know if my school is eligible?

The Secretary of Education invites Chief State School Officers (CSSOs), including chiefs of D.C. and Puerto Rico, as well as the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) ("the Authorities") to nominate schools that they have evaluated as meeting the criteria for recognition. The authorities must confirm that the schools meet the minimum requirements established by the ED. They must describe any other criteria used to select the schools as nominees.

State education authorities must submit evaluation of nominees in the Pillars and Elements, listed below. They are encouraged to use the practices suggested in the Framework for Evaluation of Schools (Framework). They must certify compliance with all applicable civil rights, health, environment and safety statutory and regulatory requirements.

The Duncan District Sustainability Award: In addition to their school nominations, each authority may recommend one multi-school serving district for its exemplary comprehensive high achievement in all three Pillars. Nominating authorities should document how the district nominee is comprehensively high performing in all Pillars and Elements. Authorities may adapt the Framework, sample application or committee review used to select individual schools in their evaluation of districts.

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7. How does my school apply?

Schools are nominated by their Chief State School Officer to U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. Depending on your state, there may be a selection process involving a state level green schools program or other selection infrastructure to identify finalists.

States and comparable authorities (see below, regarding DoDEA and BIE schools) will be required to make their nominations to the Department by a date each winter.

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8. How many schools does my state nominate?

Each authority is permitted as many as four nominations. If a state or comparable authority wishes to nominate more than one public school, at least one must be a school with at least 40 percent of their students from a disadvantaged background. If an authority wishes to nominate a fourth school, it must be a private school. No more than one of the four may be a private school. A school may be selected as honoree only once every three years. Authorities are encouraged to take a school’s academic achievement, achievement gaps and diversity into account when selecting school honorees. In addition, each state may nominate one district.

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9. My school is a Department of Defense Education Activity school; can it be nominated for a Green Ribbon?
My school is a Bureau of Indian Education-funded school; can it be nominated for a Green Ribbon?

Yes. Both Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools are eligible.

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10. Do private schools qualify?

Yes, private schools are also nominated through the Chief State School Officer in their state to U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. Each state may nominate one private school.

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11. Once my school applies to ED, what is the review process and timeline for hearing whether we won?

Schools must be nominated to the Department of Education by their state or comparable authority in order for their application to be sent to the Department of Education. Schools principal application review will be made by state education authorities, in collaboration with state health, safety and environmental authorities. Once a state or comparable authority selects its nominees, it will work with the school to complete a Nominee Presentation Form to present the high achieving evaluation to ED.

Once schools are selected by Nominating Authorities and presented to ED, ED, assisted by the Environmental Protection Agency, will conduct final review to ensure that schools: 1) meet all of the eligibility requirements; 2) comply with all applicable federal civil rights and federal, state, local and tribal health, environment and safety statutory and regulatory requirements; and 3) meet high college- and career-ready academic standards. This federal review will select the honorees.

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12. Timeframe for 2012-2013 Green Ribbon Schools
Summer 2012 States encouraged to indicate their intent to submit nominees to USED.
July ED provides 2012-2013 criteria
Sept States launch competitions for nomination
December States review applicants and select nominees to USED.
February, 2013 States submit nominees to ED.
April 22, 2013 ED announces awardees at a local winning school.
June 3, 2013 Awards ceremony.
Spring/Fall 2013 State and honorees host local ceremonies.

Note that all dates are tentative.

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13. Who do I contact about ED- Green Ribbon Schools?

If you have questions about the program, or believe your school qualifies and would like to request that your state or alternative authority consider your school for nomination, you can find their name and contact information on the websites below.

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14. Where can I find resources to help my school progress in the three Pillars?

ED-GRS maintains a regularly updated resource page and features resources on its Facebook page. The resource page provides links to programs operated by federal agencies, non- profit entities and individual states. In addition, your state may run a green schools program with resources that are specific to your region and needs. We encourage interested schools to employ these resources to suit their needs; however, we cannot guarantee that employing the resources listed will ensure a ED-Green Ribbon Schools award.

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15. Please note

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition award and should not be confused with any green schools program conducted by non-governmental entities.

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Last Modified: 07/11/2013