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National Blue Ribbon Schools—Breaking the Mold

Somerset Academy Davie in Davie, Florida– 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.

Featured below are two 2017 National Blue Ribbon awardees led by recipients of the 2017 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership: Principal Ursula Annio and Principal Kristen Hughes.  These schools prove that there are no one-size-fits-all approaches to educating students.  Rather, by setting high expectations, offering a rich curriculum with high academic standards and providing the right student supports, students from all backgrounds can excel:

Still Making the Grade showcases P.S. 748 — Brooklyn (NY) School for Global Scholars.  Originally designed as a district-based application school for gifted and talented students, P.S. 748 features a self-created and evolving curriculum that uses project-based learning and departmentalized, interdisciplinary learning to prepare global citizens for the future.  Two years ago, District 20 re-defined P.S. 748 as a zoned, neighborhood school.  As the gifted and talented students aged out, a new and more diverse student body replaced them.  The shift in students was due to overcrowding; their ongoing excellence was due to a stellar staff who coupled high expectations with targeted supports.


Game Changer tells the story of White Street School in Springfield, Massachusetts, where demographics had been the steady explanation for low student achievement.  Families were reluctant to send their children to a school were only 4% of fifth graders scored Proficient in any subject.  In 2010, the state singled out the school for a takeover if it did not improve.  Three years into a stalled turnaround effort, a small team of passionate educators, who had recently moved a similarly situated school from Struggling to Excellent, arrived at White Street to effect change.  Within two years, the state re-classified White Street as Excellent.  Now, families are coming back.

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 here.


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

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