What Does It Mean to be a Blue Ribbon School?
Each year, only a few hundred public and private schools are fortunate enough become winners of the Blue Ribbon Schools Award. It is, perhaps, one of the most prestigious awards that any school could hope to achieve and winners of this award are often regarded as some of the most successful schools in the country. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program was created by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationwide effort to improve the quality of education in America.
In 1981, Terrel H. Bell, Secretary of Education in the Cabinet of President Ronald Reagan, convinced Reagan to commission a study on American education and two years later issued a report titled A Nation at Risk.
In the report he made the observation that the US was failing to meet the national need for a competitive workforce and stated that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people”.
In response to the study’s findings, Terrel Bell founded the National Blue Ribbon Schools program which recognizes hundreds of public and private schools whose students have achieved academic excellence or have made significant strides in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups.
The National Blue Ribbon School award not only recognizes schools with students who demonstrate academic excellence, but also those schools who have showed high levels of student achievement despite difficult odds like high teacher turnover, low budgets, and poverty.
Benefits of the National Blue Ribbon School Award
Blue Ribbon Schools benefit from more than just a title. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the award can lead to receiving support from community volunteers, partnerships with local business, and even financial support.
The recognition that Blue Ribbon schools receive can create a domino effect, motivating other schools to achieve the high standards as well. Since the National Blue Ribbon Schools program encourages the sharing of knowledge about best practices in teaching and leadership amongst schools, it becomes a win-win situation in which all schools benefit from the program in one way or another.
Each year, National Blue Ribbon School teachers and principals are invited to present at both state and regional meetings about the most effective practices that have made a difference for their students.
As this information is shared among all schools, lower achieving schools have “model schools” they can look up to and emulate so they too can win the award in subsequent academic years.
In addition, the program’s criteria for winning the award are made available to all schools which allow them to evaluate their current performance and find those areas that need improvement. For parents, having their child attend a Blue Ribbon School provides some peace of mind knowing that their child will be getting a world class education.
Eligibility Criteria for National Blue Ribbon Nominees
Each state’s Chief State School Officer (CSSO) is granted the power to nominate a certain number of schools proportionate to each state’s population.
However, there are some criteria that must be met before the CSSO can nominate any schools. At least one-third of the public schools nominated must have a student body in which 40 percent are traditionally undeserved students or students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Second, the U.S. Department of Education recommends that the nominated schools should be a good representation of the geographic and demographic diversity of the state’s school-age population.
Lastly, for a school to be nominated, it must meet one of two eligibility criteria:
- Exemplary High Performing Schools – To be considered as a high performing school, schools have to be in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state when they’re ranked on the students’ performances in reading or mathematics in the most recently administered state assessments. Each school must also be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state when they are ranked on the performance of each subgroup of students at each school. Lastly, high schools must be in the top 15 percent of all high schools in the state when they’re ranked on the most recent graduation rate.
- Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools – To be considered as an achievement gap closing school, each School’s subgroups must rank in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state when they are ranked on the progress they’ve made in closing the gap between the performance of all the students in the state and the school’s subgroup, over the last five years, in reading and mathematics. Additionally, all the school’s subgroups must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state in terms of reading and mathematics. For high schools, each of their subgroups must be in the top 40 percent of all high schools in the states when ranked on graduate rate.
Non-public schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education based on criteria determined by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. In order to be eligible for nomination, non-public schools must show that the achievement of its students in the most recent year tested places the school in the top 15% of schools in the nation as measured by a nationally normed test. Additionally the school must prove that all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are achieving at similar levels. Finally, the graduation rate for non-public high schools must be at or above 95% in the most recent year.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools award is a prestigious award that acknowledges the exemplary performance of the recognized schools; what makes it even more unique is the profound effect the award has on everyone, not just its winners. The student body, the teachers and faculty, the community, and even the non-winning schools all have something to benefit from this award, making it one of the most important strides towards educational reform in modern history.
Students attending a National Blue Ribbon school have the satisfaction of knowing that their teachers and staff are the top in the nation, they’re at the forefront of the best practices in teaching, and they can help them succeed academically, no matter what their income level or background may be.
That is why we are proud to announce that Mount Dora Christian Academy’s Elementary School is a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. Not only is MDCA’s elementary school one out of the fifty blue ribbon private schools of 2017, but we are one of only a few blue ribbon elementary schools in Florida.
As honored as we are to be named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School, our strive for academic excellence does not end here and we remain committed to our student’s education and their future.
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