Ten Maryland schools have received a National Blue Ribbon designation, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday, an award bestowed on the highest-performing schools in the nation or those with extraordinary success in closing the achievement gap.
Four Catholic schools and six public schools representing six districts in Maryland received the honor.
The National Blue Ribbon winners are: Bel Air Elementary School in Allegany County; Lime Kiln Middle School in Howard County; Mount Washington Elementary School in Baltimore City; Oklahoma Road Middle School in Carroll County; Severna Park High School in Anne Arundel County; and Towson High School Law and Public Policy inBaltimore County.
Mary of Nazareth Roman Catholic School in Darnestown, St. Bartholomew Catholic School inBethesda, St. Jane de Chantal Catholic School inBethesda, and St. Mary's School in Rockville also received the honor.
The public schools were all named Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence in December because they performed in the top 15 percent on state assessment tests or showed drastic improvement with economically disadvantaged students.
"When we were first named Maryland, it was a complete shock," said Autumn Eirich, principal ofBel Air Elementary School, a small school of 220 students in Cumberland. "We know there are so many wonderful schools out there — this is a dream for everybody, to be recognized for something they do every day."
Principal Jane Barranger said Towson High School's designation is confirmation that students, staff and parents are doing "the right thing."
But she added, "I'm not going to be satisfied until every single student reaches their full potential."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the release announcing the winners that "their success is an example for others to follow." The schools join 305 others from across the country in the national honor; a total of 413 schools were nominated by their respective state departments to the U.S. Department of Education. They will be honored in a ceremony in Washington on Nov. 14 and 15.
"This is pretty exclusive company they're with," said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education. "These are all high-flying schools, and for us, this is always a happy time. The schools are excited, and they should be. It's a remarkable achievement."
At Severna Park High School, "cheers erupted through the school" when students received word of the honor, said Patrick Bathras, who has served as principal for four years. "It was a fun moment for everyone.
"It's not just about going for this award, but striving for what makes up the criteria — striving for the best," Bathras said.