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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Insignia that designates a Blue Ribbon School

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a United States government program created to honor schools. The Blue Ribbon award is considered the highest honor an American school can achieve.[1][2]



Established in 1982 by Secretary of Education Terrell Bell, the program first honored only secondary schools, and was expanded to include primary schools. It was then changed again to honor secondary schools and primary schools in alternate years. The program recognized more than 3,000 schools from its inception through 1996, and currently cites nearly 300 schools per year out of 133,000 total K-12 schools,[3], although only those schools that meet the eligibility criteria and submit applications are considered.

Many have won the award multiple times, including four-time winners Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (88-89, 92-93, 97-98, 03-04), Crocker Middle School in Hillsborough, California (82-83, 88-89, 94-96, 04-05) Spartanburg High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina (82-83, 88-89, 92-93, 97-98), Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois (86-87, 90-91, 97-98, 01-02), Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Illinois (84-85, 94-96, 01-02, 07-08), Holy Names Academy in Seattle, Washington (84-85, 90-91, 94-96, 01-02)and Edison Computech Middle School (90-91,94-96,01-02,08-09)

States, territories, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools have joined the competition over the years. Special emphases have changed from year to year based on national priorities.


To be selected for recognition, a school conducts a self-evaluation -- a process that allows teachers, students, parents and community representatives to assess their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategic plans for the future. The school then submits a written application, including information on its progress toward achieving the National Education Goals. A review panel selects what they consider the most promising schools for site visits by experienced educators who submit reports on their findings. The review panel considers the reports and makes recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education, who announces the schools selected for recognition.

Eligible schools must have been in existence for five years and cannot have received the award within the five prior years.[4]


During its 25 years of existence, from its inception in 1982 through the 2006 award year, the Blue Ribbon Schools Program has been awarded approximately 5,600 times. 5,200 different schools have been recognized, reflecting those schools that have been selected two or more times.[5] There are over 133,000 public, charter, private and parochial schools serving grades K-12 that are eligible for the award.[6] With 5,200 award recipients and 133,000 eligible schools, approximately 3.9% of schools nationwide have been recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools.


David W. Kirkpatrick, the Senior Education Fellow at the US Freedom Foundation, noted in an editorial titled, "Awarding Blue Ribbons: Recognizing Schools or Students?" that criteria for the awards do not take into account the socioeconomic status of the students and that studies show that students who come from homes with higher income and better educated parents do better than students without these advantages by virtue of their backgrounds. Thus, the award is usually given to schools with students from wealthy backgrounds. As evidence to support his case, he pointed to the distribution of awards given in Pennsylvania one year; of eight schools receiving the award, only one was in a district whose income level was near the state average, and the rest went to districts with above average income, including two in the wealthiest community in the state.

Kirkpatrick proposed an alternative to recognizing "blue ribbon students"; he wrote, "Thus a more accurate indication of a good school would be one that adjusts for such socioeconomic factors and identifies those in which students do better than would normally be expected, based on their backgrounds."[7]

See also


  1. ^ CIBA cited as one of the best by Education Department, Journal Inquirer, November 16, 2006. "The Blue Ribbon award is given only to schools that reach the top 10 percent of their state's testing scores over several years or show significant gains in student achievement. It is considered the highest honor a school can achieve."
  2. ^ Viers Mill School Wins Blue Ribbon; School Scored High on Statewide Test; The Washington Post. September 29, 2005 "For their accomplishments, all three schools this month earned the status of Blue Ribbon School, the highest honor the U.S. Education Department can bestow upon a school."
  3. ^ US K-12 Enrollment The Center for Education Reform figures for 2000–2003, accessed December 8, 2006
  4. ^ 2006-07 NCLB-Blue Ribbon Schools program Application, United States Department of Education, p. 9 of 17. Accessed July 16, 2007. "The school has been in existence for five full years, that is, from at least September 2001 and has not received the No Child Left Behind – Blue Ribbon Schools award in the past five years."
  5. ^ Blue Ribbon Schools 1982-2002 lists about 4,561 separate awards to approximately 4,175 schools. Blue Ribbon Schools 2003-2006 lists 1,040 award recipients. The number of multiple award recipients who had been recognized from 2003-2006, who had also been recognized previously, has not been determined.
  6. ^ K-12 Facts, Center for Education Reform, accessed May 7, 2007, lists 133,362 K-12 schools nationwide: 94,112 public schools, approximately 3,600 charter schools, 27,223 private schools and 8,102 Catholic schools.
  7. ^ "Awarding Blue Ribbons: Recognizing Schools or Students?", dated 24 October 2005, accessed 1 January 2008.

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