325 National Blue Ribbon Schools named for leading in academics and equity

325 schools make the grade as leading National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021
By: | September 22, 2021
Students visit with Hall-Kent Elementary School's dog, Maize, in Alabama. (Photo provided by U.S. Department of Education)Students visit with Hall-Kent Elementary School's dog, Maize, in Alabama. (Photo provided by U.S. Department of Education)

Educators who narrowed achievement gaps and oversaw exceptional academic performance did the work to put 325 schools on the National Blue Ribbon list for 2021.

The award recognizes schools and educators who create vibrant, welcoming and affirming cultures. Schools that won were among their state’s highest-performing schools, either:

  • In closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.
  • As measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect and teach our children.”

The winners, which include 302 public schools, represent 45 states as well as the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools.

The Blue Ribbon website shares the stories of the winners. Here are highlights from several of the schools’ applications:

Progress closing achievement gaps

Avalon Middle School (Orange County Public Schools, Florida): Teachers and administrators partner to build deep relationships with our students to foster a growth mindset. This approach has allowed us to grow and close achievement gaps of our students while stretching learning beyond grade-level expectations. Personalized and equitable learning opportunities are provided for all learners to develop skills and achieve content and learning priorities.

First graders from Thorpe Creek Elementary School in Indiana dip for aquatic macroinvertebrates in the swamp. (Photo provided by U.S. Department of Education)

First graders from Thorpe Creek Elementary School in Indiana dip for aquatic macroinvertebrates in the swamp. (Photo provided by U.S. Department of Education)

Sampson Early College High School (Sampson County School District, North Carolina): Staff members get to know students personally, and class sizes are suitable for students to experience a unique approach to education. The school offers students support systems through high school and college.

Northern Shores Elementary School (Suffolk City Public School District, Virginia): Students are enveloped in an environment anchored by a growth mindset and self-reflection through goal-setting practices. The staff is dedicated to fostering respect for individual differences, communicating high expectations and helping students develop positive personal qualities while working toward mastery of the Virginia Standards of Learning.

High academic performance

Hall-Kent Elementary School (Homewood City Schools District, Alabama): In 2019, the school adopted the Junior Patriot Pride House System, a student advocacy program that includes every student, teacher and staff member. This model promotes stable relationships, provides a sense of belonging for all students beyond the classroom walls, and establishes positive connections between students and teachers. Hall-Kent has a special faculty member, Maize, who serves as the school’s facility dog.

University High School (Tolleson Union High School District, Arizona): Students at the Title I school, which serves traditionally under-represented students and families, begin advanced and AP level classes upon enrollment. One hundred percent of students are accepted into a college or university, with some of our students choosing military enlistment.

Lux Middle School (Lincoln Public School District, Nebraska):  Lux administrators annually spotlight a specific instructional practice as the focus of all professional learning. One year, the focus was objectives: What was the objective of a particular lesson? How should teachers communicate that objective? How will the objective be assessed? Administrators have also spotlighted circulation, opportunities to respond, and 100% participation strategies.