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National Blue Ribbon Schools

A federal No Child Left Behind program that celebrates many of America's most successful schools. Its goal is to promote and support the improvement of education in America.

Program Information

A component of the California School Recognition Program (CSRP), the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is an important part of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Originated by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes outstanding public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. In identifying several hundred outstanding schools annually, the program celebrates school excellence, turn around stories, and closing subgroup achievement gaps. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Award is both a high aspiration and a potent resource of practitioner knowledge.

In addition, schools nominated for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award can nominate their school principal for the Terrel H. Bell Award during the final stages of the National Blue Ribbon Schools application process. Additional information about the Terrel H. Bell Award can be found on the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools The Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Additional information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program can be found on the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Purpose External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Eligibility Criteria

The Secretary of Education invites Chief State School Officers (CSSOs), including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to nominate schools for recognition. In submitting nominated schools, the CSSO of each state and these entities must certify that the nominated schools meet the minimum requirements established by the ED for nomination. States and nominating entities must rely on their accountability and assessment systems to identify schools for submission to the Secretary. Each year the ED outlines the categories for nomination and establishes eligibility criteria. The number of public schools each state may nominate is based on the number of public kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) students and schools in each state.

Eligibility for Public Schools

At least one-third of the public schools nominated by each state must be schools with a high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A student from a "disadvantaged backgorund" is defined by the CSSO of each state. The definition may include economically disadvantaged students, that is, students who are eligible for free and reduced-priced shool meals; students with disabilities; students who are limited English proficient; migrant students; and/or students receiving services under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. "High percentage" means at least 40 percent unless a state has found that this criterion restricts the number of schools available for nomination. Such a state may propose to use a percentage lower than 40 percent as long as the proposed percentage is no lower than the state's overall (average) percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds as defined by the state. The ED also recommends nominated schools reflect the demographic and geographic diversity of the state's public school-age population. Each state's nomination criteria must pertain equally to all public schools nominated by the state.

Public schools may be nominated in either of two performance award categories:

  1. Exemplary High Performing Schools
  2. Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools

In addition to meeting the performance award requirements, a nominated school must, in most cases, have at least 100 students enrolled and have assessment data for at least 10 students in each tested grade for both reading (or English language arts) and mathematics. States with a large percentage of schools with fewer than 100 students enrolled may include up to a similar percentage of these schools in their nominations. However, each school must have assessment data for at least 10 students in each tested grade for both reading (or English language arts) and mathematics.

All nominated public schools must meet the state's measures of interim progress in the state accountability system or other performance targets that are set for the school year in question in at least reading (or English language arts) and mathematics, and graduation rates and possibly other academic indicators, for the all students group. Additionally, nominated schools must have assessment participation rates of at least 95 percent using the most recent accountability results available, for the all students group. Finally, in order to meet all eligibility requirements, all nominated public schools must be certified by the state prior to September 2019 announcement of National Blue Ribbon Schools by the Secretary of Education.

Additional information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Eligibility Criteria can be found on the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Eligibility and Performance Award Criteria External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Eligibility for Non-Public Schools

The Secretary of Education invites the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) External link opens in new window or tab. to nominate non-public schools that meet the criteria for recognition. Information, including eligibility criteria and application instructions and deadlines, for non-public schools can be found on the CAPE National Blue Ribbon Schools Program External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Application

Eligible schools are those submitted by authorized nominators (CSSOs and CAPE) that meet all National Blue Ribbon Schools Program criteria and requirements and have completed a comprehensive, high quality application according to Program timelines. Once the ED receives the nominations from the CSSOs and CAPE, the Secretary of Education extends an invitation to the nominated schools to apply.

For more information regarding the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, please contact your California School Recognition Program County Coordinator.

Additional information about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Application can be found on the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Applicant Information External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Timeline of Activities 2018

Date Activity
November 7-8, 2018
Two representatives from each school, the principal and a teacher, are invited to attend the recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Spring 2019
California's 2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awardees are invited to attend the CSRP Awards Ceremony.

Timeline of Activities 2019

Date Activity
September 2018
The Secretary of Education sends a letter of invitation to the CSSOs and CAPE requesting nominations of eligible schools.
November 30, 2018
Nomination processes and data for public schools being considered for nomination from CSSOs and interested non-public schools from CAPE are due to the ED.
December 14, 2018
Nomination processes and data for public schools being considered for nomination are reviewed by the ED and a National Blue Ribbon Schools Assessment Panel for alignment with the general eligibility criteria of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.
December 19, 2018
Non-public school applications are due to CAPE.
January 15, 2019
Approved public school nominations are entered by states into online portal.
January 22, 2019
The ED invites public schools nominated by CSSOs to apply for recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools.
January 29, 2019
CAPE selects non-public school nominations.
March 29, 2019
Completed public and non-public school applications are due to the ED.
April-June 2019
Applications are reviewed for completeness, quality, and accuracy.
August 2019
States certify that nominated public schools have met all eligibilty requirements.
September 2019
The Secretary of Education announces the 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools (public and non-public).
November 2019
Two representatives from each school, the principal and a teacher, are invited to attend the recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Sponsors

We are thankful for our California School Recognition Program Sponsors who help to make the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program a success! The CSRP would not be successful without the generous support they provide. We appreciate their willingness to support our efforts to recognize California's exemplary students, teachers, classified employees, schools, and districts for achievement and for advancing excellence in education.

Resources

California School Recognition Program Ceremony
Photographs and video information about the California School Recognition Program Ceremony.

California School Recognition Program County Coordinators
Contact information for California School Recognition Program county office of education coordinators.

California School Recognition Program Merchandise
Information about California School Recognition Program merchandise.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Downloadable Logo External link opens in new window or tab.
National Blue Ribbon Schools downloadable logo for use by National Blue Ribbon Schools Awardees.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Awardees
California's National Blue Ribbon Schools Awardees by year.

National Terrel H. Bell Awardees
California's National Terrel H. Bell Awardees.

Questions: Awards Team | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition