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National Blue Ribbon School Award -Find the Best Schools in our Nation

Updated on June 8, 2013
Blue Ribbon School Plaque Posted at entrance to St. John the Apostle Catholic School
Blue Ribbon School Plaque Posted at entrance to St. John the Apostle Catholic School | Source

The National Blue Ribbon School award is one way the United States government recognizes the best schools in the country at both the elementary and secondary levels. Like any award system, there may be flaws in the process, but it's clear that like the Baldridge award given to corporate America, much of the value in the process comes from the self study the schools go through to just apply for recognition. Often times these studies reveal areas of improvement that can lead to a future Blue Ribbon award.

These awards were originally started in 1982. Terrel Bell was then the Secretary of Education and the process started then. Originally targeted at secondary schools in the country, it was soon expanded to recognize schools at the primary school level as well. For several years the award was alternated each year to switch between secondary schools and elementary schools.

In the fall each year, the Secretary of Education holds an award ceremony to give out the plaque and flag that the school can display to demonstrate the fact that they've been recognized. On the order of 300 schools are recognized annually, out of a population of over 130,000 eligible schools in the country (this includes charter, public, parochial and private schools.) Over the years more than 6,000 schools have been recognized, or less than 4% of all the schools in the country. Some have been recognized as often as 4 times, which is quite a feat since one of the requirements is that you have not received the award in the last 5 years, so to receive it 4 times demonstrates a record of excellence that stretches over more than a decade.

Blue Ribbon Process

Schools qualify for initial consideration in the process by either falling into the top 10 percent of their state's assessment rankings, or schools that have at least 40 percent of their students drawn from disadvantaged backgrounds that have demonstrated recent improvements in their schools assessment scores.

To initiate the Blue Ribbon application process, a school must undergo a self study process. This can be enlightening, and even schools that don't follow through on the application process often find the self study beneficial. The self study will typically include members from the faculty, parents, students, and the community that examine several areas of competency for strengths and weaknesses. This is followed up by a strategic planning process to address the weaknesses identified in the study.

Based on the self study, the school submits an application, which includes an assessment on it's work towards the National Education goals. A panel is charged with reviewing the applications, and based on this initial screening will identify schools that will receive a site visit for a more in depth review of the school. These assessors on these visits include experienced educators and draw from a variety of expertise.

After the schools have been visited and a summarization is completed, a review panel makes the final assessments and selects candidates to be presented to the Secretary of Education.

In 2008 St. John the Apostle Catholic School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School as one of the best Fort Worth Catholic schools. It remains the only private school in Tarrant County (Ft. Worth area), Texas to have this honor bestowed in the last 5 years.

2012 Blue Ribbon School Awardees

In September, 2012, 314 schools received the National Blue Ribbon award. You can click here to see if any school in your area is on the list.

Of the 50 private and parochial schools bestowed this honor, 44 of them were Catholic Schools. Upholding the long-standing tradition of knowing you are receiving a high-quality education at most any Catholic school in our country.

Blue Ribbon Poll

Do You Know of a Local Blue Ribbon School?

See results

An Honor To Uphold

One of the perks after gaining this honor is the words "Blue Ribbon School" emblazoned on a prominent facade or exterior wall of your school. This serves as an announcement to the community and remains on the school wall forever.

It is quite an honor to work for and be chosen as a Blue Ribbon School. For years to come, your school will be known as one of the best schools to attend in your city, state and our country.

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