To Apply for the 2023 Program

  1. Download CAPE’s Procedures for Private Schools.
  2. Download the BRS application in PDF format, available in October.
  3. Download the assessment cut scores (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site to see if your school qualifies.
  4. Sign up for Email Updates on National Blue Ribbon Schools Award.
  5. Complete this online pre-registration form by October 26, 2022. Schools that do not complete this form by October 26 will not be eligible and will have to apply during the next cycle.
  6. After November 1, registered schools will be sent an email message containing a school code and keyword that they can use to access their online application. Before then, schools should refer to the PDF version in #2 above to prepare responses and data for the online application.
  7. Complete the online application after receiving the school code and keyword. All applications must be completed and submitted online by January 13, 2023.
  8. Print out and mail to CAPE, for receipt by January 13, 2023:
    1. two hard paper copies of the completed online application,
    2. an original application cover sheet signed by all appropriate parties (be sure to make a PDF copy of the cover sheet that you can upload to the online portal), and
    3. send in one hard copy of the assessment verification documents from the test publisher, by mail, to CAPE. Also, you must scan and upload (as a PDF file), one copy of these documents through the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Portal.

Mail applications to:

Council for American Private Education (CAPE)
PO Box 1790
Madison, VA 22727

Note: If you need to send your documents via an overnight service, please use the USPS Priority Mail Express Overnight Service as UPS and FedEx do not deliver to Post Office Boxes.

Download the NBRS Application Process Pacing Guide

Process and Timeline

Timeline Procedures
By October 26, 2022 School officials download:

  1. CAPE’s Procedures for Private Schools (PDF) and
  2. the BRS application in PDF format.
  3. School officials use this online pre-registration form to register for the program. Schools not registered by this date are not eligible to apply.
After November 1, 2022 School officials receive an email notification containing a school code and keyword that they can use to set up and access their online application through the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Portal.
By January 13, 2023 CAPE must receive from the school:

  1. two hard paper copies of the online application
  2. an original application cover sheet signed by all appropriate parties (be sure to make a PDF copy of the original that you can upload to the online portal), and
  3. send in one hard copy of the assessment verification documents from the test publisher, by mail, to CAPE. Also, you must scan and upload (as a PDF file), one copy of these documents through the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Portal.

CAPE must receive the package by 5 p.m., January 6, 2023 at CAPE’s BRS mailing address, which means the package must be mailed well before that. Applications should also be submitted online by January 6, 2023 deadline.

By February 17, 2023 CAPE’s review panel selects 50 schools to nominate for the award and advises applicants accordingly. Schools are notified of the results, and nominated schools receive feedback on how to improve their applications.
By March 19, 2023 School officials from nominated schools complete online edits.
By April 7, 2023 CAPE submits final applications for the nominated schools to Department of Education.
September 2023 Secretary of Education announces the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools.
November 2023 Ceremony takes place in Washington, DC, to honor the National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Online Application Process

After November 1, schools that pre-registered for the program by the October 26 deadline will receive via email a school code and keyword to access the online application. Schools must complete the application online.

Here are some guidelines for completing the online application using the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program Portal:

  1. Narrative responses to application questions must address the topic succinctly. No attachments to the online application can be submitted. Bulleted sections are not acceptable.
  2. Tables, charts, graphs, photos cannot be accommodated by the online application. 
  3. On-line instructions must be followed when copying/pasting text from Word to the online application.
  4. Saving work frequently is necessary to protect the “work in progress.”
  5. Printing the application for review is possible before and after the final submission.
  6. Public and private school applicants must convert the original signed cover page of the application to a PDF file and upload the PDF via the online application portal.
  7. All applications must be completed and submitted by the program’s timelines.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR SCHOOLS THAT TAKE STATE TESTS: The application does not provide an opportunity to record results from state tests. A private school that administers state tests will have to submit with the application to CAPE a copy of the printout(s) from the state education department that identifies the school’s scores in reading and math for the most recently completed school year in ALL grades tested from grade 3 up. The school will also have to provide evidence from the state education department that the scores reported in the most recently completed school year place it in the top 15 percent of schools in the state in both reading and math for each grade tested from grade 3 up. 

Instructions for completing the application are provided as online help text. Assistance is available for school applicants through the National Blue Ribbon Schools Technical Assistance Team, run by RMC Research Corp., the Department of Education’s contractor for the program. Please use this form to contact the team for help in navigating the online system, or with questions regarding responses to the narrative or data items. Alternatively, you can contact the technical support team as follows:

Additional Guidelines

  1. Read and follow the directions in the application packet carefully. Pay attention to the technical specifications. When CAPE’s review panel evaluates applications in an effort to narrow the field to the allotted 50, it eliminates applications that do not comply with the program’s rules and specifications.
  2. The program is looking to identify truly exemplary model schools, not just good schools or strong schools. Your responses to the questions must convey programs and practices that are well above the ordinary.
  3. Check your application against the U.S. Department of Education’s Tips for Completing the Application as well as the scoring guidelines from CAPE that reviewers will use to evaluate applications.
  4. Some narrative questions have changed for the 2022 program. Be sure your responses hit all the points called for in the two documents identified in #4 above.
  5. Proofread and edit the application. Someone with a solid background in writing should do the final edit.
  6. We welcome your phone calls (844-883-CAPE), or e-mail inquiries ([email protected]) concerning any aspect of the application process. One of our goals at CAPE is to help private schools receive recognition as Blue Ribbon Schools!
  7. When you get your superintendent (e.g., for Catholic schools) and/or school board president to sign the cover sheet, do so well in advance of the January 13, 2022 due date. Faxed signatures are not accepted. Only original signed cover sheets are accepted. Also, be sure to make a PDF copy of the original signed cover sheet because you will have to upload it via the online application portal in addition to submitting it to CAPE.
  8. Be sure to read the Part I Eligibility Certification carefully to make sure you meet the criteria listed, and be sure to submit the certification with your application.
  9. Here are some points to review in connection with part II of the application:
    1. The percentages reported in #6, #7, and #8 are calculated using the ratio of the total number of students in each category to the total student enrollment in the school (last row and column of #3).
    2. The ratio reported in #11 should be calculated using full-time equivalent classroom teachers, which can be determined by using row 2 of item 10. For example, five full-time teachers and six half-time teachers equal eight full-time equivalent teachers.
  10. Examples of responses to particular questions may be found in the applications of winning private schools from previous years. See the NBRS Awards Page of the USDE Web site.
  11. Avoid using the first person (we, our, etc.) in the narrative.
  12. Schools that have enrollments under 100 (excluding the number of students in PreK) or that have enrollments of nine or fewer students tested in any grade for which test scores are reported are NOT eligible to apply.
  13. If you belong to a (arch)diocese, identify the (arch)diocese and superintendent in the “district” section. Make sure the superintendent signs the cover sheet that you submit with the paper copies of the application.