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SBHS Named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School for Excellence in Closing the Achievement Gap

SBHS is the only charter school in N.C. this year to earn this recognition, and the third school in Wilson County to be named a National Blue Ribbon School since the program’s founding in 1982

(WILSON, N.C.) – September 21, 2021 – U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona today recognized 325 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021 and Sallie B. Howard School is among them. [Visit our official NBRS profile page here!]

The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. SBH was chosen as an “Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing School” based on student performance on state exams in pre-covid years.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Secretary Cardona. “I commend this school and all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. 
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students. 

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites National Blue Ribbon Schools nominations from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

This is a significant achievement for SBH for several reasons:

  • SBH is one of 8 schools (both public and non-public) in N.C. to receive the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award.
  • SBH is the ONLY charter school in NC to receive this award this year.
  • Only 15 charter schools in the country received a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award.
  • SBH is the 3rd school in Wilson County to ever receive a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award since the founding of this program in 1982 (James B. Hunt HS – 2000; Rock Ridge Elementary – 2015)

“We are overjoyed at the news of receiving the prestigious National Blue Ribbon School Award,” says SBHS executive director Dr. JoAnne Woodard. “Our muse, Sallie Baldwin Howard, inspired a movement in us over 30 years ago to impact the lives of children and families who were under-resourced, disenfranchised, and neglected by traditional education systems. We embraced her vision and together we work to cultivate in our students a self-awareness that you are somebody, you matter, and you can be more than your circumstances say you can be.”

She continues: “We convey this message in how we greet and serve our students, families and visitors; in the meals we prepare and serve; in the talented, global faculty and staff we employ; in the diverse student body we enroll; in the travel abroad opportunities we provide at no cost to the families; in the clean, safe, and beautiful environment in which they learn; in the opportunities afforded our students to discover and develop their talents in the fine arts and science.”

“Kudos to our staff and leaders, past and present, for this distinguished recognition. It is a testimony to the collective work and love of dedicated educators over the years who have impacted the lives and futures of the students we serve.”

Photographs and brief descriptions of the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at

Visit SBH’s official NBRS profile page here.

About Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science

Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science, a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School, is a free, public charter school founded in 1997 in Wilson, N.C. that serves 1,200 students in grades K-12. Named after the legendary author, educator, playwright and actress Sallie Baldwin Howard, SBHS is dedicated to ensuring that every child – privileged or underprivileged – gets the kind of education that will allow them to become more than they ever thought they would be. With a performing arts-based curriculum, a study abroad program that has brought hundreds of children to nearly all 7 continents, a culturally diverse faculty and student body, and the addition of a high school, Sallie B. Howard School is preparing its students to become 21st century industry leaders both locally and globally. Visit us online at

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