My first teachers were my parents. Both grew up in immigrant households in the vibrant city of Los Angeles. They were Chicano latch-key-kids of the 1970s. My father began working at a young age, supplementing the family’s income with a paper route before school and gardening work with my grandfather on the weekend. My mother loved reading and writing. She was always naturally good with numbers and words, which made her stand out in her classes. Both were quick-witted and capable, and yet neither of them were particularly pushed by their parents academically. As a defiant reaction to this, my parents made it a point to repeat phrases such as “Appreciate what you have”, “Pay attention in school”, and “You’re going to college!”. They made it their mission to ‘break the cycle’ and give us what they had not been given.
Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that “great schools don’t happen by chance. Great schools happen by design.” It takes hard work & dedication at all levels of a school community – from students, teachers, staff, administrators, & families – to make a school truly shine.
Today, we honor 297 schools for their exemplary teaching & learning with our 2022 National Blue Ribbon School (NBRS) awards. Since 1982, ED has bestowed about 10,000 NBRS awards to over 9,000 schools across the nation, honoring the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities to create safe & welcoming schools where students master challenging content.
As we celebrate our 2022 honorees, here’s a bit more about the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program & how schools earn their awards:
Which schools are honored?
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public & private elementary, middle, and high schools where students either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.
National Blue Ribbon Schools represent the full diversity of American schools: public schools (including Title I, magnet, choice, and charter schools), and non-public schools (parochial and independent schools). They are urban, suburban, and rural, large and small, traditional and experimental, and serve students of every social, economic, and ethnic background.
How are schools nominated?
The Chief State School Officers from the 50 states, US territories, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) & the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) nominate public schools. The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) nominates up to 50 non-public schools, including parochial & independent schools. States are allocated nomination slots based on K-12 students & schools in each state. At least one-third of public schools nominated by each state must have student populations comprising high percentages of disadvantaged populations.
Once ED validates the nominations, invitations are sent to the schools to apply for the award. Nominated schools complete an extensive narrative application describing their:
Ways the school has encouraged & challenged all students to develop their full potential academically, emotionally, physically, socially, & culturally
In what categories are schools recognized?
Schools are nominated & recognized in one of two categories based on student performance on state assessments & high school graduation rates:
Exemplary High Performing Schools are schools with the highest achieving students (the top 15%) in English and mathematics on state assessments and the highest high school graduation rates. Additionally, the achievement scores of all students tested in any subgroup in the most recent year must be in the top 40 percent of all schools in the state in performance ranking.
Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are schools that have made the greatest advances (top 15%) in closing the achievement gaps of at least one student subgroup in English and mathematics over the past three to five years on state assessments. High school graduation rates for the student subgroup(s) must also be in the top 40 percent.
Why are the National Blue Ribbon School awards important?
The National Blue Ribbon School awards acknowledge and validate the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for—and attaining—exemplary achievement. National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation. The NBRS flag gracing a school’s entryway or flying over campus is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.
“I know you’re all going to have a wonderful day of learning.” Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten said as she finished the morning announcements at Idlewild Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina, helping ED kick off the Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour.
The schedule for Monday was packed; four stops in one day!
By: Cori Walls, International Baccalaureate film & Digital Video Production teacher for Palm Beach County School District in Delray Beach, FL
Why is it that so many films have a backstory of a child losing a parent? Or that many superheroes are vindicating the death of their parents? This is where art is the reality for far too many children across our country. The challenge lies in how to offer support to these grieving children.
My mother grew up as one of nine children. Her youngest sibling, my aunt Cheryl, was born with Down Syndrome. At the time of Cheryl’s birth in 1962, the doctors told my grandparents that Cheryl would only live until the age of three, and as such, the family should consider putting her into an institution. My grandparents adamantly refused this recommendation, and Cheryl continued to live at home. My aunt Cheryl passed away in November 2021, just a few months before her 60th birthday. She was deeply cared for and loved by my family until her last day on Earth.
By: Luke Rhine, Deputy Assistant Secretary the Office of Career, Technical & Adult Education
Dual enrollment works. The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply committed to the use and expansion of high-quality dual enrollment programs to improve student access to rigorous coursework and equitable postsecondary opportunities. Recently, the Department of Education hosted a webinar featuring a panel of dual enrollment experts who reviewed the current state of policy, practice and research as well as the future of dual enrollment. The session also included a summary of the latest research and evidence for dual enrollment, from the recent College in High School Alliance publication, Research Priorities for Advancing Equitable Dual Enrollment Policy and Practice. Here is what experts from the field said:
For millions of students like you, federal student loans and grants open the doors to a college education. That critical federal aid must be used at a school that is (among other things) given the seal of approval by an “accrediting agency” or “accreditor” recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s one of the safeguards in the system designed to protect both taxpayers and students.
By: Rebecca Standridge, Program Specialist for ESE Curriculum and veteran Special Education Teacher in Marion County, Florida
As a child, I dreamed of growing up and becoming a teacher; practicing reading aloud with my baby dolls and stuffed animals and was always the first to volunteer to help the teacher grade papers. I am now an adult, living my dream of teaching while continuing to learn and explore the field of education. During my career, the lifestyle of a military spouse has been a challenge to my development as a teacher leader. I feel like I have to prove myself to my coworkers and administrators at each new school. I begin teaching at a school, and within one school year I have established myself and built solid relationships with coworkers; these relationships strengthen and just as I feel confident in my position and moving upward, it is time to move again. But, I’ve found several ways to make sure that I can continue to grow as a leader in this unique and constantly-uprooted professional journey.
“Back-to-school season is a time of possibility and promise for students, parents and families, and educators alike. To all the school leaders working to ensure your campuses can remain safely open for in-person learning throughout this new academic year, all of us in the Biden-Harris administration appreciate your dedication in making in-person learning happen. To all the teachers preparing your classrooms and helping to connect students and families with resources to promote their health and wellness, thank you. In this administration, you will always have strong champions. To all the students heading back to in-person learning at school or college, excited about the year ahead, we believe your potential is without limits. We will continue to invest in your academic growth and support your wellbeing in schools that are healthy, safe, and inclusive places to thrive. To all the parents and caregivers, we know you want the very best for your children, and we will continue to provide supports to help schools mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safe, in-person instruction all year long. I’m confident that with the support of the American Rescue Plan and other federal resources, we can keep all our children, all across the country, safe, healthy, and learning on the road to success. Together, we will make this school year one of our best yet.”
By: Kaitlin Thach, Intern, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communication and Outreach
“The main function of an academic advisor is to bring holistic support to students as they navigate their higher education to post grad journey.”
Universities and higher education institutions nationwide provide academic advising for both undergraduate and graduate students. This principal academic resource can go underutilized as students often consider advising as a resource only when they are frantic with worry when they realize that they have little time to sign up for classes.
For many students in higher education, internships are an entryway into the workforce, offering them an opportunity to work in their field of choice and gain first-hand insight into a potential career field without long-term commitment. While time in higher education is an important period for students to grow, meet new people and experience life from a different perspective, it is ultimately about preparing for a future career path. Although internships can improve a graduate’s qualifications when searching for employment, there are existing inequities that prevent students from obtaining an internship in the first place.
By: Andrea Suarez Falken, Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability, U.S. Department of Education.
On July 26, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognized 27 schools, five school districts, and four postsecondary institutions, as well as one state education agency official, at a Washington, D.C. ceremony for their efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and hands-on, outdoor, environmental learning.