Four schools in the Archdiocese of Washington have received the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools Award in recognition of the schools' academic achievement as America's most successful schools.

The four schools are: St. Jane de Chantal School in Bethesda; St. Bartholomew School in Bethesda; Mary of Nazareth School in Darnestown; and St. Mary School in Rockville.

This is the largest number of archdiocesan schools to receive the coveted award at one time.

The Blue Ribbon designation was announced Sept. 15 by the U.S. Department of Education.

The No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors private and public kidergarten-12 schools that are either academically superior or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

Blue Ribbon Awards are given annually by the Department of Education to 49 private and 255 public. To be chosen, schools must go through a competitive application process and demonstrate academic superiority or dramatic gains in student achievement.

To demonstrate academic superiority, schools must be in the top 10 percent of schools nationally in both reading and math or in the top 10 percent on assessments for the highest grade in the school compared to national norms.

The four Catholic schools honored as National Blue Ribbon schools for 2011 can attribute their success to their high academic standards and close-knit community. The schools have strong test scores and comprehensive curriculum with varied instructional methods. Community service is also an integral part of the schools with students encouraged to get involved.

"This is a great honor for the schools and for the archdiocese and recognizes the excellence of Catholic education," said a statement released by the Archdiocese of Washington. "What is so important at these and all the schools in the archdiocese is the involvement by and with the community. It is by working together for the children that these schools are able to be so successful."

The Department of Education will honor the schools with their National Blue Ribbon School awards at a conference and awards ceremony Nov. 14-15 in Washington, D.C.

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to 98 archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools, educating nearly 30,000 students in Washington, DC and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties in Maryland.