About the Blue Ribbon Program
How are Blue Ribbon Schools selected?
Each fall, state Departments of Education nominate a certain number of K-12 public schools to be awarded Blue Ribbon School status. The number of nominations permitted is calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Education, and is based on the number of K-12 students and schools in that state. Similarly, the Council for American Private Education nominates 50 private schools nationwide every year.

The U.S. Department of Education then invites nominees to apply for the award, providing each school with an application to be completed and returned to the Department, should they choose to participate. Based on these applications, the Department selects final award winners and announces these schools the following fall. Two representatives from each Blue Ribbon School are then invited to a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where they receive a plaque and a flag signifying their status.

What are the criteria to become a Blue Ribbon School?
A school can qualify for Blue Ribbon status in one of two ways: it must display either "dramatic improvement" or "high-performance," as measured by performance on annual state assessment tests. Schools that include grade 7 or higher must include a foreign language in their core curriculum.

At least one-third of recognized schools must have at least 40% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Disadvantaged is defined as eligible for free or reduced meals or Title I services, Limited English Proficient (LEP) or migrant students.

What does "dramatic improvement" mean?
"Dramatic improvement" applies to schools that make adequate yearly progress (AYP) and identify at least 40% of their students as coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Subsequently, schools must show real gains in reading and math scores over the previous three years and ultimately achieve a high level of performance. For improving schools, this is defined as scoring at or above the 60th percentile in the state.

What does "high-performance" mean?
Alternatively, schools qualifying strictly as "high performing" must place in the top 10% of all schools in the state on their reading and math assessments in that year, regardless of demographics. Additionally, these schools must make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in the year they receive the award and cannot have been in school improvement status or identified as "persistently dangerous" within the previous two years.

How long has the Blue Ribbon Program been operating?
The current Blue Ribbon award system has been in effect since 2003. A Blue Ribbon Program was in operation prior to 2003, but the program was changed with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act to more closely align with the goals of NCLB.

How many schools receive Blue Ribbon status each year?
In 2003, the first year that the award was given, 233 schools received NCLB-Blue Ribbon status. In 2006, 280 schools received the award, while in 2007, 290 schools were designated as Blue Ribbon schools. In 2008, 320 schools received Blue Ribbon status, and in 2009 314 schools received the award.

My school was designated as a Blue Ribbon school last year, but not this year. What does this mean?
Schools who have received a Blue Ribbon award in the previous five years are not eligible to apply in the current year. Therefore, a 2008 Blue Ribbon school may not receive Blue Ribbon status in 2009, but this does not necessarily mean that the school's performance declined. For more information about your school's recent academic performance, consult our Web site or contact the school directly.

A Final Note
Please be advised that the NCLB-Blue Ribbon Schools program is distinct from and in no way affiliated with Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, Inc., which is an independent, nonprofit organization.

Source: US Dept. of Education, 2008-2009

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