Two schools each in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and one each in Harford and St. Mary's counties have been named to compete for national Blue Ribbon awards next year.

The Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools that excelled or closed acheivement gaps by significantly improving reading and math scores on state assessment exams and meeting state and federal achievement standards.

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Officials at the Maryland State Department of Education announced the winners Monday. The schools are:

•Arnold Elementary School, Anne Arundel County

•Pasadena Elementary School, Anne Arundel County

•George Washington Carver Center for Arts & Technology, Baltimore County

•Hereford High School, Baltimore County

•North Harford Elementary School, Harford County

•White Marsh Elementary School, St. Mary's County

Several of the schools serve economically disadvantaged youths and immigrants.

"We're so proud that two more of our high schools have earned this honor," said Baltimore County Superintendent Dallas Dance. "Blue Ribbon status indicates student achievement in reading and mathematics that is only possible through strong leadership. I want to thank Principal Karen Steele of Carver Center and Principal Louis Jira of Hereford High School for leading their staff and school communities to excellence."

Each of the selected schools will receive a Maryland Blue Ribbon Flag, a $2,000 prize, $1,000 worth of office supplies, interactive technology equipment and a school party.

The schools also will compete for national Blue Ribbon awards, which the U.S. Department of Education will announce next September.

Jack Smith, interim state superintendent of schools, said the schools selected are representative of public schools throughout the state.

"The students, teachers, administrators, and communities work together to make these schools something special, and they deserve recognition and celebration," he said in a prepared statement.

Gov. Larry Hogan said students and the state would reap long-term dividends from the education provided by high-performing schools

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"Every child deserves a world-class education, and each of these schools goes the extra mile to provide students the best learning experience possible, and we applaud their faculty and staff," he said in a statement. "By providing students with a quality education, we are preparing students to become productive members of Maryland's workforce and our society as a whole."

Arnold Principal Shauna Kauffman and Pasadena Principal Jen Quirino were joined by Superintendent George Arlotto at the surprise announcement Monday at the state Department of Education in Baltimore. The principals had been told they were attending a meeting on assessments.

"This is just an amazing day for our school," Kauffman said. "We have so many people both inside and outside of our school who do so many things for our children. Every one of them shares in this honor."

At Arnold, more than 98 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 scored proficient or advanced on the Maryland School Assessment in reading from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014, the last year the MSA was administered, and more than 97 percent did so in math. Nearly 73 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 scored a 4 or 5 — the level needed to be designated as being on track for college and career readiness — on last year's initial administration of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career reading assessment, and nearly 56 percent did so in math.

Arnold is an arts integration school and emphasizes strategies designed to develop critical thinking and inquiry skills along with knowledge of art standards.

At Pasadena Elementary School, more than 93 percent of students in grades 3 through 5 scored proficient or advanced on the reading MSA and more than 92 percent did so in math from 2009-2010 through 2013-2014. In the last year of the MSA, 100 percent of the school's Hispanic students, 97 percent of students receiving free and reduced-price meals, 96.8 percent of white students, 90 percent of African-American students, and 83 percent of multiracial students achieved proficient or advanced status on the reading assessment.

"I am just speechless," Quirino said. "I cannot overstate what this means to our school and our community. We are so proud of the work that we do every day, and to have it recognized like this is simply unbelievable."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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