(NEXSTAR) – The U.S. Department of Education has named the recipients of 2021’s National Blue Ribbon School Awards, recognizing a total of 325 educational facilities across the country for their exemplary test performances or efforts to close achievement gaps between students.
Created in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon School Program recognizes public, parochial and private learning facilities from across the country, as nominated by the chief educational officers in each state (for public schools) or the Council for American Private Education (for private or parochial schools).
Arkansas had four schools recognized on the 2021 list with Carolyn Lewis Elementary School in Conway, Hugh Goodwin Elementary School in El Dorado, Park Magnet School in Hot Springs and Portland Elementary School in Portland all recognized.
Miguel Cardona, the U.S. Secretary of Education, said 2021’s recipients should be especially proud of their accomplishments amid an “unprecedented” year of challenges.
“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” Cardona said ahead of a visit to the Walter R. Sundling Jr. High School, in Palatine, Illinois, per a press release. “I commend this school and all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.
“In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”
Schools in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and those operated by the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense, can be recognized in two performance categories: high achievement in graduation rates as well as English or math test performance; and greatest advancements in closing achievement gaps in English or math between student subgroups.
Schools from 45 different states were recognized on the 2021 list. California boasted the most Blue Ribbon Schools with a total of 28, though Texas and New York followed close behind with 26 and 19 schools on the list, respectively.
The vast majority of 2021’s award recipients (302) were public schools.
The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, has issued approximately 10,000 Blue Ribbon School Awards to over 9,000 different schools since its inception. In order to qualify for an award, schools must meet the wide set of requirements set forth by the Education Department before being submitted for consideration by a state official. Up to 421 schools may be nominated in a given year, including 50 total private schools. In addition, a school can only be nominated once within a five-year period, per the program’s official rules.
A complete list of 2021’s winners can be found at the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program website.