Tie a Big Blue Ribbon on America’s Great Schools

National Blue Ribbon Schools: Recognizing Great American Schools

This year marks the 30th anniversary of an American tradition—the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. The brainchild of the second U.S. secretary of education, Terrel H. Bell, the program honors great American schools—urban, rural, suburban, public, private, charter, magnet, and choice schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels—across the country. The 314 schools in the 2012 cohort join a distinguished cadre. Of more than 138,000 schools in the U.S., only 7, 110 have been honored with this, the highest award the Department confers.

Secretary to Address Blue Ribbon Principals and Teachers

Principals and other school representatives will meet in Washington on Nov. 12 and 13 to celebrate their successes and share what they have learned with each other and with the Department of Education. In addition to Secretary Arne Duncan, guest speakers include Tyra Mariani, deputy chief of staff, on the Department’s new RESPECT initiative (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching); Marc Johnson, 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, on scaling up National Blue Ribbon School practices; Dee Gardner, principal of the National Middle School of the Year, on intuitive leadership in a data-driven world; and Michelle Shearer, AP chemistry teacher and 2011 National Teacher of the Year, on the complexity of teaching and the power of the human factor.

In addition to receiving their Blue Ribbon awards at a ceremony on Nov. 13, educators will have opportunities to share their best thinking on current educational issues as part of the Department’s National Conversation about the Teaching Profession.

For a list of the 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools and more information on the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program visit the program’s page on ED.gov.

Aba Kumi is director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.


  1. I had a wonderful time celebrating our National Blue Ribbon honor with the host of other schools across the nation. Director Kumi made us feel extra special. My school has traveled a long academic rode through the years and this award represents a huge milestone in the lives of our school family. Thank you so very much Director Kumi for recognizing our school from the great state of North Carolina!

  2. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program is a phenomenal way to reward schools and educators for their hard work and success. I had the privilege to attend a blue ribbon school, and I have to say I would not be where I am today without the education I received in my early academic years. However, I grew up in an affluent area with very little racial diversity. The district I attended was able to provide resources the inner city schools could not, and frankly the majority of students in my school had educated parents that were quite involved in their academic life.

    My mother works as a 5th grade teacher in a public school district. Her students come from low income families and broken homes. It is not uncommon for English to be a second language or for her students to experience abuse at home. This past year, over 400 teachers in the public school district were laid off because of budget cuts, and now her class has over 30 students. On top of all of this, there are no longer “special education” programs for these students so the smart, average, and needy are all thrown into one class and expected to meet adequate yearly progress (which they did not last year).

    How many schools have been awarded Blue Ribbon Status that face this problem? Can we really expect teachers/school districts to provide excellent education with smaller budgets, bigger classrooms, and broken family dynamics? I believe every child in this country deserves a challenging education that can catapult them to success.

  3. My freshman year of high school my school received the honor of being named a Blue Rbbion school. The honor did not come as a surprise. Every year my high school maintains a graduation rate and college attendance rate above 85%. The school’s teachers, techonology and resources are all phenomenal. I am very fortunate to have graduated from such an exception school. If my parents had not chosen to move my family when I was nine years old, I never would have attended my Blue Ribbon school. The high school I would have attended maintains a graduation rate below 50% and for the last seven years has been deemed a failing school. My parents made a pivotal deicison to move my family. Their decision has given me a strong educational foundation that has allowed me to achieve all my academic goals.

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