Innovative schools dominate Florida’s National Blue Ribbon School award winners list

Fourth graders make volcanoes in science lab at the Children’s Reading Center Charter School in Palatka, Florida

Across Florida, 14 schools received National Blue Ribbon honors this year from the U.S. Department of Education.  

Those recognized for exemplary performance include a Catholic school, five magnet or choice schools and five charter schools.  

Among the winners is a charter school based in rural Putnam County that focuses on the needs of economically disadvantaged students. The Children’s Reading Center of Palatka uses a self-paced model that rejects traditional textbooks. Instead, teachers design their own lessons based on students’ needs. 

“We focus on a standard for as long as needed until children are comfortable moving forward. There are no boxed curriculums at our school!” the school says on its Blue Ribbon profile page. The Title I school serves 257 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. 

MAST@FIU was among the Sunshine State’s magnet winners. Situated on Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus, it represents a collaboration between the university and the Miami-Dade School District. It offers a blend of face-to-face instruction and community-based projects with a focus on marine and environmental science.  

 Queen of Peace Catholic Academy of Gainesville, which serves 470 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, was a repeat winner, having made the national list in 2011. It was the only private school on the list this year. 

The U.S. Department of Education has given the awards annually for 40 years to more than 9,000 schools across the nation.  

All schools are recognized based on test scores for all students, test scores among subgroups and graduation rates for either high performance or closing achievement gaps. The list of gap-closing schools is shorter and includes no Florida schools this year. 



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BY Lisa Buie

Lisa Buie is senior reporter for reimaginED. The daughter of a public school superintendent, she spent more than a dozen years as a reporter and bureau chief at the Tampa Bay Times before joining Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, where she served for nearly five years as marketing and communications manager. She lives with her husband and their teenage son, who has benefited from education choice.