National Blue Ribbon Schools—Learning Requires Engagement

Sunset Elementary School in San Francisco, CA – a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School

National Blue Ribbon Schools are special places, each unique to their communities, their students, their staff, and their leaders, yet they are producing outstanding results for all their students regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zip code. They are closing the gaps in student achievement and, in most cases, demonstrating consistent excellence.

Each year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program visits a handful of schools to learn more about what makes these outstanding schools tick. Video profiles offer glimpses of dynamic students, teachers, and principals in action—a day in the life of a National Blue Ribbon School.

We recently featured two schools that prove there are no one-size-fits-all approaches to educating students. Today we are excited to share with you two more.

Featured below are two 2017 National Blue Ribbon awardees that demonstrate the importance of student engagement in successful schooling. These videos showcase promising practices in the arts and social emotional learning, strengthening the conclusion that student learning requires engagement.

Teaching with Art and Heart showcases Skyland Elementary School, a rural elementary school in Greer, South Carolina. Under the leadership of Dr. Carolyn Styles, Skyland teachers have trained with professional artists to learn ways to tap student curiosity and persistence by integrating the arts into classroom instruction. Creativity and collaboration ensure that all students are engaged in a learning activity, independent of their unique learning needs. In this video, students use art to understand quadrilaterals and music to develop a steady beat to aid in reading fluency.

Hearts and Minds highlights Pinewood Elementary School, located in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There, teachers and staff found themselves dealing with extreme student behaviors that disrupted learning. Principal Rachael Postle-Brown led a multi-pronged response consisting of mindfulness for self-calming and metacognition, strategies for students to use language to solve problems and resolve personal issues, and movement to oxygenate young minds and reinforce content cues.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has produced more than 50 video profiles of honorees to showcase the myriad ways that successful schools meet their students’ needs. These profiles capture urban, suburban and rural schools, in both affluent and low income neighborhoods, where students are thriving.

Learn more about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. We look forward to announcing the new 2018 cohort of awardees in the fall.


Aba Kumi is Director of the U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon Schools program.

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