ROELAND PARK, Kan. (WCBD/WDAF/NEXSTAR) — Christ Our King-Stella Maris School in Mount Pleasant is celebrating after being named a National Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education.

The annual recognition is given to schools based on academic performance, or progress toward closing achievement gaps among student groups on tests, the Education Department explains.

Created in 1982, the National Blue Ribbon School Program recognizes public, parochial and private learning facilities from across the country.

Schools can be recognized for a Blue Ribbon School Award in one of two performance categories: high achievement as measured “by state assessments or nationally normed tests,” and greatest advancements in closing achievement gaps.

“The leaders, educators and staff at our National Blue Ribbon Schools continually inspire me with their dedication to fostering academic excellence and building positive school cultures that support students of all backgrounds to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a release.

Christ Our King-Stella Maris School (COKSM) is one of more than 350 schools in the U.S. to make the list, one of eight in South Carolina.

“Our Catholic school is filled with outstanding teachers, engaged parents and hardworking students. We are blessed to be in a faith-filled community united in the goal of helping each and every student find success. COKSM’s focus is to help our students prepare for the next stages of their lives and become active members of our community,” COKSM Principal Susan Splendido said.

This year, all but four states were represented in the awards. Oregon and Vermont have not participated since the 1990s, Maine last participated in 2020, and Nevada in 2022.

California boasted the most Blue Ribbon Schools with a total of 33. The states with the most Blue Ribbon Schools are:

  1. California: 33
  2. Texas: 29
  3. New York: 22
  4. Illinois: 20
  5. Ohio: 19

While California and Texas topped out the list, states in the Midwest and Northeast largely had the most schools recognized while states in the Plains and West were less-represented.

This map shows the number of schools by state that received National Blue Ribbon Recognition in 2023. (Department of Education)

Last year, it was Texas that had the most Blue Ribbon Schools at 31, followed by California at 29. New York, Illinois, and Ohio were also in the top five in 2022.

You can find a complete list of 2023 winners here.

In 40 years, the National Blue Ribbon School Program has issued about 10,000 awards to over 9,700 schools across the country. Schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Department of Defense Education Activity can only be nominated once every five years. They must also meet a rigorous list of requirements to qualify.

Only a certain number of schools per state, set by the Department of Education, can be nominated each year by the Chief State School Officer. This means states like California and Texas — which can nominate up to 35 and 26 schools, respectively — will often have the most schools recognized while smaller states, like Hawaii and Rhode Island, are capped at three.

“COKSM, in its efforts for continuous improvement, has a long tradition of providing a top-notch Catholic educational experience for our students, and we are committed to educating the whole child through our programs in academics, fine arts, stewardship and athletics. We are very happy and proud that we have once again been named a National Blue Ribbon School,” School President John Byrnes said.