Two Ketchikan elementary schools were among only three public schools in the state, and about 270 nationwide, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as Blue Ribbon Schools.

Tongass School of Arts and Sciences and Point Higgins Elementary School received the award. Tongass was chosen as an “exemplary improving school.” To qualify for that category, a school must have at least 40 percent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and demonstrate progress in student achievement.

According to the Alaska Department of Education, 87 percent of all Tongass students were proficient in reading and 77 percent in math in 2011 — representing a 15-percent improvement since 2007. Alaska Native students showed a 70 percent reading proficiency, with 61 percent in math, an increase of 11 percent since 2007.

Tongass Principal Marian Gonzales said Friday that the state contacted her school last year, and suggested Tongass apply for the award through the Alaska Department of Education, which formally nominated the school.

“It was quite a few details that we included about our program and our vision for students and how we instruct, our philosophy,” she said. “So after completing all that, along with some date from the last five years, the application went in.”

Gonzales said that application received preliminary approval last year, pending results of the school’s Adequate Yearly Progress scores. Tongass made AYP, and the award was approved this week.

Gonzales said it’s an honor to be chosen.

“It’s a reflection of the work our teachers do with children, and in accelerating their learning and closing the achievement gap,” she said.

Point Higgins was chosen as an “exemplary high-performing school.” To qualify in that category, a school must be among the state’s highest performing schools as measured by state or standardized tests.

According to the Alaska Department of Education, in 2011, 94 percent of all Point Higgins students were proficient in reading, and 92 percent in math. Of Alaska Native students at that school, 95 percent were proficient in reading and 100 percent in math.

Point Higgins Principal Sheri Boehlert was not available for comment on Friday.

The other Alaska school on the list is West Homer Elementary School.

Blue Ribbon schools each receive a plaque and a flag to fly outside of the school. A principal and teacher from each school are invited to attend the Nov. 12th ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Gonzales said her school hopes to send representatives to accept the award.