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Frequently Asked Questions

Both public and non-public schools are eligible for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award based on school performance. Schools may be nominated for the award only once within a five-year period.

Public schools are nominated by their Chief State School Officer (CSSO). All states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), are invited to apply. The U.S. Department of Education determines the number of nominations per state [PDF, 20K] based on the number of K-12 students and schools in each state.

At least one-third of the public schools nominated by each state must be schools with a high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. What constitutes “disadvantaged backgrounds” is defined by the CSSO of each state. “High percentage” generally means at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In order to be eligible for nomination, a school must meet several criteria based on the performance of its students on state assessments in reading (or English language arts) and mathematics or a composite of performance on these assessments with other measures of student performance (e.g., student growth on state assessments, performance on state assessments in other subjects, graduation rates, or other indicators in the state’s accountability system). A school may be nominated in either of two performance award categories: Exemplary High Performing and Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing.

Once schools are nominated by their CSSO, they are invited by the Department to apply for the award. The current National Blue Ribbon Schools Program criteria and application can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/applicant.html.

The Department invites the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) to nominate non-public schools that meet the criteria for recognition under the Exemplary High Performing award category. Non-profit, non-public schools interested in being nominated should contact CAPE directly at https://capenetwork.org/blue-ribbon-schools. In submitting nominated schools, CAPE must certify that the schools meet the minimum requirements established by the Department and describe any other criteria used to nominate the non-public schools.

  1. The school configuration must include one or more of grades K-12. Schools located on the same campus (physical location and mailing address) must apply as an entire school (i.e. K-8; 6-12; K-12 school). Two (or more) schools located on separate campuses, must apply individually even if they have the same principal. A single school located on multiple campuses with one principal must apply as an entire school.
  2. The school has been in existence for five full years, that is, from at least September 2018 and grades participating in statewide assessments must have been part of the school for at least the three years prior to September 2022.
  3. The nominated school has not received the National Blue Ribbon Schools award in the past five years: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022.
  4. The nominated school has no history of testing irregularities, nor have charges of irregularities been brought against the school at the time of nomination. If irregularities are later discovered and proven by the state, the U.S. Department of Education reserves the right to disqualify a school’s application and/or rescind a school’s award.
  5. The nominated school has not been identified by the state as “persistently dangerous” within the last two years.
  6. The nominated school or district is not refusing Office of Civil Rights (OCR) access to information necessary to investigate a civil rights complaint or to conduct a district wide compliance review.
  7. The OCR has not issued a violation letter of findings to the school district concluding that the nominated school or the district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes. A violation letter of findings will not be considered outstanding if OCR has accepted a corrective action plan from the district to remedy the violation.
  8. The U.S. Department of Justice does not have a pending suit alleging that the nominated school or the school district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes or the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
  9. The nominated school has, or is subject to, a nondiscrimination policy (the school will provide a URL link to the policy within their application), is committed to equal opportunity for all students and all staff consistent with applicable law and does not have any outstanding findings of unlawful discrimination. The U.S. Department of Education reserves the right to disqualify a school’s nomination and/or rescind a school’s award if unlawful discrimination is later discovered.
  10. There are no findings of violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in a U.S. Department of Education monitoring report that apply to the school or school district in question; or if there are such findings, the state or district has corrected, or agreed to correct, the findings.

The U.S. Department of Education reserves the right to disqualify a school’s nomination and/or rescind a school’s award if one of these eligibility requirements is later discovered to have not been met or otherwise violated.

Following the receipt of school nominations from States, the Department invites nominated schools to apply for the award. After schools submit their applications for recognition, they are screened for completeness, quality, accuracy, and eligibility issues. Schools are provided with feedback and provided an opportunity to modify and improve their application before final submission.

Once reviews are completed, public schools must be certified by state CSSOs based on the school’s most current performance on state assessments in order to receive the National Blue Ribbon Schools award. Because state assessment results may not be available and announced until late summer, the Department usually announces the new National Blue Ribbon Schools in September of the year after a school’s initial nomination. The recognition ceremony takes place in mid-fall. The entire process, from initial nomination to receiving the award, takes about a year.

The timeline for the 2023 cohort of National Blue Ribbon Schools is as follows:

Date Due
October, 2022 The Secretary of Education sends a letter of invitation to the CSSOs and CAPE requesting nominations of eligible schools.
October, 2022 Conduct webinar/TA conference calls to review guidance and application with liaisons.
December 30, 2022 Nomination processes and data for public schools being considered for nomination from CSSOs are due to the Department.
January 13, 2023 Hard copy of non-public school applications are due to CAPE.
January 9-13, 2023 Nomination processes and data for public schools being considered for nomination are reviewed by ED and a NBRS Assessment Panel for alignment with the general eligibility criteria of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program.
February 1, 2023 Approved public school nominations are entered by states into online portal.
February 6, 2023 The Department invites public schools nominated by CSSOs to apply for recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools.
February 17, 2023 CAPE selects non-public school nominations.
April 7, 2023 Completed public and non-public school applications are due to the Department.
April-June, 2023 Applications are reviewed for completeness, quality, and accuracy.
August, 2023 States certify that nominated public schools have met all eligibility requirements.
September, 2023 The Secretary of Education announces the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools (public and non-public).
November, 2023 Two representatives from each school, the principal and a teacher, attend the recognition ceremony in Washington, DC.

The National Blue Ribbon School award acknowledges and validates the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for—and attaining—exemplary achievement. For many educators, receiving the award is the realization of a long-held dream. Local and state media eagerly profile recognized schools, helping the school, its district, and community gain additional exposure.

National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation, NBRS personnel are often sought out as mentors. Successful applications, posted on the NBRS website, detail key elements of successful schools, from individualized student supports, intentional instruction, collaborative cultures, and targeted curricula. Representatives from schools are honored at an annual awards ceremony held in Washington, DC. Each school receives an engraved plaque and program flag with the official seal signifying its status and the year of its award.

Public and non-public elementary, middle, and high schools can be awarded National Blue Ribbon status. This includes charter, magnet, choice, and schools with religious affiliations.

If you represent a public school and believe your school qualifies for National Blue Ribbon School status, you may contact the NBRS state liaison affiliated with your State Department of Education. While most states do nominate public schools for this prestigious award, a few choose not to participate.

If you represent a non-public school, please contact the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) by email: brs@capenet.org or phone (844) 883-CAPE. Additional information is on CAPE’s website.

A school’s National Blue Ribbon School status does not expire. Once a school receives the award, it remains a National Blue Ribbon School. However, school representatives must always use the year of the award when identifying their school as a National Blue Ribbon School.

For example:

Central High School,
2011 National Blue Ribbon School
is correct.

Central High School,
National Blue Ribbon School
is not correct.

Schools, both public and non-public, may be nominated for the award only once within a five-year period.

The National Blue Ribbon School logo can only be requested by the recognized school.

Recognized schools can Contact NBRS for information.

Successful applications from 2013 to the current cohort of awarded schools are available on the NBRS website at https://nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov/awardwinners/.

Please note that application questions may change from year to year. While reading previous applications can be useful, prior responses may not be the best way to address the current application’s questions.

Contact NBRS or Aba Kumi, Director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program at: Aba.Kumi@ed.gov or Phone: (202) 401-1767