To be selected for recognition, a school conducts a self-evaluation -- a process that allows teachers, students, parents and community representatives to assess their strengths and weaknesses and develop strategic plans for the future. The school then submits a written application, including information on its progress toward achieving the National Education Goals. A review panel selects what they consider the most promising schools for site visits by experienced educators who submit reports on their findings. The review panel considers the reports and makes recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education, who announces the schools selected for recognition.

Eligible schools must have been in existence for five years and cannot have received the award within the five prior years.

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