Seven Maryland schools were designated Thursday as national Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, an award given to those with consistently high performance or a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students who have shown significant improvement.
Five of the schools are public, including Eastern Technical High in Baltimore County and Ellicott Mills Middle in Howard County, and two are Catholic.
"This is one of the nation's most significant awards presented to public schools," state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in a statement.
The three other public schools in the state are Northern Middle in Calvert County, New Market Elementary in Frederick County and Northwestern Elementary in Wicomico County. The Catholic schools are St. Louis in Clarksville and St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring.
The award is given by the U.S. Department of Education to 304 public and private schools in the nation. There are 3,000 schools that have been given the designation since the program's inception in 1982.
Michael Goins, the principal of Ellicott Mills, was wishing that school wasn't closed for the day so he could celebrate with students, teachers and parents. Although all the schools had already been named Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools, the national designation was announced Thursday, when most school systems in the area were closed for Rosh Hashanah.
Goins said the school has had a high percentage of students scoring well on the Maryland School Assessment for many years. In addition, he said, the faculty instituted a program several years ago that allows teachers to meet every two weeks and look at which students might be falling behind on homework and doing poorly on quizzes or daily classwork. Goins said the close tracking of student performance allows teachers to jump in before issues become more difficult to deal with.
Ellicott Mills also has a lot of parent involvement and a record of outstanding music programs.
"We have a lot of good things going on. We are a wonderful school," Goins said.
Eastern Tech has maintained a record of high achievement over a decade, according to the state. Its High School Assessment scores were 99.7 percent in reading and 100 percent in math in 2009. About 20 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.
St. Louis, a prekindergarten through eighth-grade school in Howard County with test scores that rank it in the top 10 percent of schools nationally, has a high-level math curriculum that prepares students to take advanced courses in high school.