What is a blue ribbon school?

Some schools stand for their academic excellence. They inspire, encourage, and motivate students, enabling them to achieve higher academic excellence. By maintaining high standards in education, they help students utilize their fullest potential.

The US Department of Education grants the National Blue School Ribbon Award to honor such institutions of excellence. It is a prestigious award received by few private and public schools for their academic excellence and for reducing the achievement gap.

The blue ribbon school meaning carries various aspects. For example, a school should meet specific eligibility requirements to receive this prestigious award. And the students should receive a well-rounded education with exceptional performance in core areas.

What are the characteristics of a blue ribbon school?

You recognize a school of this type the moment you see it, mainly because of its high academic standards. Most students in such schools enjoy a high ranking in English and math based on standardized tests.

Pursuit of academic excellence

Usually, in the lower grades, the teachers focus on strengthening the fundamentals of a subject, helping them build a strong foundation. Other topics aimed at all-around educational excellence include cursive writing, reading, and computer keyboard skills.

Gifted students also find an opportunity to learn math beyond their class requirements if the teachers find it suitable. For instance, second graders might learn third-grade math, while fourth graders learn sixth-grade math.

The focus is on pursuing academic excellence, which reflects in the students. In the upper grades, students test their creative and critical thinking skills. For example, someone in the tenth might have the intellectual ability of a 12th grader in reading, writing, and math.

Building a strong foundation

Schools of this form emphasize building the student’s STEM foundations (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It all starts from kindergarten, with students spending about 40 minutes in an engineering lab.

They also have elementary classes focussing on spelling, grammar, reading, writing, handwriting, and communication skills.

All-round education

These distinguished schools focus on comprehensive education. They offer foreign language courses, computer coding, web and game design, or computer forensics class.

They usually include musical education in their curriculum, including chapel presentations, annual musical plays, and performing concerts.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The Department of Education lays down specific requirements that schools should meet. They base the requirements on students’ performance like their comprehension abilities, math solving skills, etc.

The nomination usually happens in two categories. Both have different criteria and thresholds.

1. Exemplary high performing

The measure for ranking schools under this category is the entire school’s performance, subschool performance, and high school graduation rate. A school is high performing when its “entire performance” is among the top 15% in a state (could be any state in the USA).

Similarly, the threshold for subgroup performance is top 40% in the state, while that of high-school graduation rate or CCR measure is amongst the top 15.

This category has three subject options: reading/ELA and math performance separately, reading/ELA and math performance combined, and composite score integrating reading ELA, math, and others.

2. Achievement gap closing

Achievement gaps refer to the differences in educational achievement among student subgroups based on gender, race, or socioeconomic status. The CSSO usually determines the achievement gap closing (removing the gaps in academic achievements) in each state.

The four criteria in this category are subgroup improvement, subgroup performance, high school subgroup graduation rate, and whole school improvement.

The threshold for subgroup improvement is top 15% in the state, while it is top 40% for performance. For the high-school graduation rate, the minimum limit is a maximum of 40%.

Although the subject options are not much different from those mentioned above, some differences exist. For example, improvement in reading/ELA and math separately, reading/ELA and math combined, and composite score involving a combination of reading/ELA, math, and other measures.

What is the number of enrolled students?

An educational institution should have at least 100 students enrolled, with assessment data for a minimum of 10 students for math and reading. Public schools that are nominated should meet the goals for interim progress set by the state following the state accountability system.


Thus, a blue ribbon school represents academic excellence or consistent pursuit. Its students are top performers, with narrow achievement gaps and a focus on comprehensive education.

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