Blue Ribbon Award

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The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and non-public elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where students are making significant gains in academic achievement. A vital part of the U.S. Department of Education, the program identifies and disseminates knowledge about effective school leadership and instructional practices. The Award is both a high aspiration and a potent resource of practitioner knowledge.

A National Blue Ribbon Schools flag overhead has become a symbol of educational excellence recognized by everyone from parents to policy-makers in thousands of communities. In its 31-year history, the Department has bestowed this coveted award on some 7,000 American schools.

National Blue Ribbon Schools represent the full diversity of American schools: public schools including charter schools, magnet/choice schools, Title I schools, and non-public schools including parochial and independent schools. They are urban, suburban, and rural, large and small, traditional and innovative, and serve students of every social, economic, and ethnic background.

At the same time, they share some key qualities. Their leaders not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, they stay close to the real action of teaching and learning. Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures. The whole school community embodies a sense of collegiality and commitment and members are supported by mentoring and professional development. Data from many sources are used diligently to adapt teaching and learning to support every student. Families and educators work together in partnership.

Using standards of excellence evidenced by student achievement measures and research-based indicators of school quality, the Department celebrates high-performing schools and schools with a high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds that significantly improve whole-school test scores and student subgroup test scores.

National Blue Ribbon Schools are honored at an annual awards ceremony in Washington, DC, where each receives a plaque and flag to signify its exemplary status. These schools serve as examples for other schools throughout the nation and details of their achievements are shared on the U.S. Department of Education’s website.