The America’s Best Urban Schools Award (ABUS) is presented annually to the nation’s highest performing urban schools. In May 2020, the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) will present this award to elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, dual language schools, and alternative schools. In order to compete for an America’s Best Urban Schools Award, schools must submit the following data and meet or exceed the criteria as defined.
- Urban Location: The school must be located in a metropolitan area with 50,000 or more residents.
- Non-Selective Admissions: In general, the school may not require students to meet academic criteria in order to attain or retain admission. For example, a school that requires students to possess/maintain a certain test score or possess/maintain a minimum grade point average would not be eligible for consideration. Schools may house programs (e.g., programs for students identified as gifted or talented) that admit children from beyond the school’s attendance area through selective admissions if fewer than 10 percent of the school’s students are enrolled through selective admissions.
- Low-Income Eligibility: For elementary schools in which the highest grade is grade six or lower, at least 60% of the students enrolled (both in the prior and the current year) must have met eligibility criteria for free- or reduced-price lunch. For middle schools (grade nine or lower), at least 50% of the students must have met the same criteria. In high schools, at least 40% of the students must have met the same criteria.
- High Rates of Academic Proficiency: The school must be able to show that the percentage of students demonstrating proficiency on state assessments, in both 2018 and 2019, was higher than the average of all schools in the state (within the same grade span grouping). The school must have exceeded the state average in at least half of the subject areas/grade levels assessed in 2018 and 2019. NOTE: In states where rates of academic proficiency are not being tabulated in 2019 because of new assessments, NCUST will use 2017 and 2018 data to assess this criterion. In states where rates of academic proficiency were not tabulated in 2018 because of new assessments, NCUST will use 2019 assessment data only. This note applies to items 4 through 7.
- High Rates of Academic Proficiency for Every Racial/Ethnic Group: The school must indicate the percentage of students from each racial/ethnic group who achieved academic proficiency. The school may be eligible to compete only if, in at least two academic subjects, the percentage of students proficient in each racial/ethnic group exceeds the average of all schools in the state.
- Evidence of High Achievement for English Learners: If more than 20 students are identified as English learners, the school must present evidence that a high percentage of English learners are progressing toward proficiency with the English language. As well, the school must indicate the percentage of English learners that achieved proficiency on state assessments.
- Evidence of High Achievement for Students with Disabilities: The school must indicate the percentage of students with disabilities that achieved proficiency on state assessments.
- Low Rates of Out-of-School Suspension: For every demographic group served, with an enrollment greater than 20, the total number of student days lost to suspensions must be less than the total number of students enrolled.
- High Attendance Rates: The school must have evidence to indicate that the average student attendance rate exceeded 92% for each of the past two academic years.
- Low Rates of Teacher Absence: Schools must indicate the percentage of teachers who were absent more than 10 days.
- Schools must also respond to several open-ended questions that ask for evidence of rigorous curricula, engaging and effective instruction, a positive school culture, student engagement in extracurricular activities, excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education (STEM) and describe what efforts the school is making to ensure students are successful in subsequent school levels (e.g. elementary schools must show evidence that their students are successful at the middle school).
Additional Criteria for High Schools
In addition to the general criteria, high schools must meet the following criteria:
Percentage of First-Year High School Students Advancing to the Second Year: Each high school must present the number and percentage of their 2018-2019 first-year students who earned sufficient credit to be promoted to second-year status.
Percentage of Students Earning College Credit or Participating in Advanced Placement Courses during High School: Each school must present evidence of the number and percentage of students who earned college credit in the prior year. Also, each applicant must present evidence of the number and percentage of students who participated in advanced placement or international baccalaureate courses; the number and percentage who took advanced placement or international baccalaureate assessments; and the number and percentage who received passing scores. Schools also provide average SAT/ACT scores.
High Graduation Rates: Each high school must present the latest four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (as defined by the U.S. Department of Education) for every racial/ethnic group of students.
Additional Criteria for Dual Language Schools
In addition to the general criteria, dual language schools must meet the following criteria:
Schools that apply in the dual language category must provide school-wide dual language programs. Dual language applicants must meet all other award criteria.
Additional Criteria for Alternative Schools
In addition to the general criteria, alternative schools must meet the following criteria:
Alternative school applicants must meet criteria one through three above. Regarding item two, alternative schools may be considered if they selectively enroll students who have experienced academic and behavioral difficulty in typical schools. Additionally, alternative schools must present data regarding all other criteria however, there are not minimal eligibility criteria associated with these criteria. Alternative schools will be reviewed and considered on a competitive basis.