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National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

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Frequently Asked Questions


What are the benefits and responsibilities of being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education?

Each year, National Blue Ribbon Schools shine under a national spotlight for all the right reasons. The award acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for—and attaining—exemplary achievement. For many, attaining the National Blue Ribbon School award is the realization of a long-held dream.

National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models for other schools throughout the nation, and school personnel are often sought out as mentors. Their applications are posted on the U.S. Department of Education's website, and media eagerly profile recognized schools, helping the school, its district, and community gain additional exposure. Representatives from schools are honored at an annual awards ceremony held in Washington, DC. Each school receives an engraved plaque and program flag with the official seal, which signifies its status and the year of its award.


How do schools become National Blue Ribbon Schools?

Both public and non-public schools are eligible for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award.

Public schools nominated for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award must meet one of two performance award criteria:

  1. Exemplary High Performing Schools: "High performing" is defined by the CSSO of each state, but at a minimum means:

    1. The performance of all tested students in the school in the most recent year tested in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics must be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state when schools are ranked based on the performance of all tested students.
    2. For each of the school's subgroups, the performance of all tested students in the subgroup in the most recent year tested in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state when schools are ranked based on the performance of tested students in that subgroup.
    3. For the most recent year in which graduation rates are available in the state, the graduation rate of a high school must be in the top 15 percent of all high school graduation rates in the state.

  2. Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools: "Achievement gap closing" is defined by the CSSO of each state, but at a minimum means:

    1. The school must be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state for both reading (English language arts) and mathematics based on its progress in closing achievement gaps between the school's subgroups and the state's all-students group over the past five years.
    2. For each of the school's subgroups, the performance of all tested students in the subgroup in the most recent year tested in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state when schools are ranked based on the performance of tested students in that subgroup.
    3. For the most recent year in which graduation rates are available in the state, the graduation rate of each of a high school's subgroups must be in the top 40 percent of all high school graduation rates for that subgroup in the state.
    4. The change in the performance of all tested students in the school over the past five years, comparing only the most recent year to the earliest year, must not be less than the change in the performance of all tested students in the state in both reading (English language arts) and mathematics.

Non-public schools nominated for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Exemplary High Performing Schools: "High performing" means:

    1. That the achievement of the school's students in the most recent year tested places the school in the top 15 percent in the nation in reading (or English language arts) and mathematics as measured by a nationally normed test or in the top 15 percent of its state as measured by a state test. If a non-public school administers both state tests and nationally normed tests, the school must be in the top 15 percent in both.
    2. Disaggregated results for student groups, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, must be similar to the results for all students tested.
    3. The graduation rate for non-public high schools must be 95% or higher in the most recent year.


How can my school be nominated?

Public schools are nominated by their Chief State School Officer (CSSO) to the National Blue Ribbon Schools program. All states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), are invited to apply. The U.S. Department of Education determines the number of nominations per state [PDF, 20K] based on the number of K-12 students and schools in each state. One-third of the schools nominated by each state must have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Each fall, once schools are nominated by their CSSO, they are invited by the Department to apply for the award. The current National Blue Ribbon Schools Program application can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/applicant.html.

Non-public schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education (CAPE). Additional information is on CAPE's website.

Schools, both public and non-public, may be nominated for the award only once within a five-year period.


Whom can I contact about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program if I wish my school to be considered for nomination?

If you represent a public school and believe your school qualifies, you may contact your National Blue Ribbon Schools state liaison who is affiliated with your State Department of Education.

While most states do nominate public schools for this prestigious award, a few choose not to participate.

If you represent a non-public school, you can contact the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) by email: brs@capenet.org or phone (301) 916.8460.


Once my school is nominated and applies, what is the process and timeline for learning if we will be recognized?

Applications go through two rounds of review. The first screens applications for completeness, quality, accuracy, and potential eligibility issues. Applications then enter a second round of review to assure compliances with all eligibility criteria.

Once both reviews are completed, public schools must meet their Annual Measureable Objectives (AMOs) or make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the latest round of state assessments in order to receive the National Blue Ribbon Schools award. Because state assessment results may not be available and are not typically announced until late summer, the Department will usually announce the new National Blue Ribbon Schools in September of the year after a school's initial nomination. The ceremony takes place in mid-fall. The entire process, therefore, from initial nomination to receiving the award, takes about a year.


Does National Blue Ribbon School status expire?

A school's National Blue Ribbon School status does not expire. Once a school receives the award, it remains a National Blue Ribbon School. However, school representatives must always use the year of the award when identifying their school as a National Blue Ribbon School.

For example:

Central High School,
2011 National Blue Ribbon School
is correct.

Central High School,
National Blue Ribbon School
is not correct.


Where can I find applications from previously recognized schools?

The Department has posted applications from 2003 to the present.

Please note, however, that application questions may change from year to year. While reading previous applications can be useful, prior responses may not be the best way to address the current application's questions.


Are there additional resources for learning about National Blue Ribbon Schools?

More questions?
Contact NBRS. You may also contact Aba Kumi, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Director at Aba.Kumi@ed.gov.



 
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Last Modified: 11/22/2013