To affirm that school recognition programs should reward efforts to increase academic achievement of all students through comprehensive reform.

Programs that identify and recognize successful schools provide positive reinforcement to school personnel, students, and the local communities. There is a growing movement to identify such successful schools based on high-stakes tests. The National Association of Secondary School Principals believes that no comprehensive school recognition program (e.g., Blue Ribbon Schools) should be based on a single criterion. A number of other indicators should be factored into the evaluation of school success.

Guiding Principles

NASSP believes that:

  • School recognition programs serve as a tool to reward successful initiatives and to inspire school improvement practices in other schools.
  • Successful schools should be defined by multiple indicators of improvement, not one criterion, such as one-time test scores.
  • School recognition programs that simply represent a snapshot of a school may be unreliable, unfair, and inaccurate; therefore, school success should be measured over a period of time to show improvement.
  • Successful schools promote equity by ensuring that programs aimed at school improvement are beneficial to all student populations.
  • Successful schools demonstrate unwavering commitment to continuous improvement; express consistent high expectations for all students; and prepare students for life beyond high school (i.e., postsecondary education and careers).


  • Use multiple indicators when identifying a successful school. These indicators should include but not necessarily be limited to: principal leadership, personalization, quality services for students with disabilities, relevant and rigorous curriculum, student assessments, family involvement and community engagement, professional development activities for teachers and principals, and collaboration.
  • Conduct school site visits to collect data and artifacts in order to gauge true and accurate school improvement over a minimum of three years.
  • Examine performance indicators for all student populations, such as ethnic, racial, and gender groups, as well as students with special needs and English language learners. Policymakers should:
  • Address financial and social inequities that affect student performance on state assessments.
  • Provide schools with effective resources that specifically address the educational needs of secondary school students. Resources should include funding, research on best practices, and continuous professional development.
  • Recognize schools for continuous achievement as well as improvement, and not for where the schools place in a ranking system.
  • Include practitioners on all school recognition program selection committees.


Chenoweth, K. (2007). It’s being done: Academic success in unexpected schools.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

The Education Trust. (2005). Gaining traction, gaining ground: How some high schools accelerate learning for struggling students. Washington, DC: Author. International Center for Leadership in Education. (n.d.). Middle grades profiles of successful programs. Rexford, NY: Author.

International Center for Leadership in Education. (n.d.). America’s most successful high schools-case studies and resources on best practices. Rexford, NY: Author.

National Association of Secondary School Principals. (2008). “Breakthrough Schools: Case studies from the MetLife-NASSP Breakthrough Schools”. Principal Leadership, 8(10). NASSP. (June 11, 2002).

Funding and Support for Secondary Education. NASSP Board Position Statement. Retrieved from

No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools Programs. Retrieved from