FALMOUTH — Falmouth Middle School is one of three Maine schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon school.

The distinction honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools where students achieve high learning standards or are making notable improvements in the achievement gap.

Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden and Sea Road School in Kennebunk were also recognized, and all three were lauded as “Exemplary High Performing Schools.” Across the country, 329 public and private schools were recognized.

“To be named a National Blue Ribbon School, schools must meet strict criteria, and these three Maine schools deserve great credit for their dedication to the mission of educating our children. I commend the educators, parents and students who all work to make these schools such proud examples of excellence in the state of Maine,” William Beardsley, Maine deputy commissioner of education,  said in a press release.

In a video message to the honorees, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said National Blue Ribbon Schools are proof students can be fully prepared for college and careers.

“Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices – professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems – making you shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation,” King said in the release.

Falmouth Middle School Principal Janet Adams said it was a huge honor to receive the award, and it was “now just starting to sink in.”

She said administrators received a call last school year to say the school was eligible for nomination and staff would have to fill out an application, answer questions about the school, and its curriculum, demographics, extracurricular activities and other information. She said FMS also won the award approximately eight years ago.

“It really is an honor,” Adams said. “We have a fabulous school community, our students are dedicated, our teachers are phenomenal. And what we do in this school is just extraordinary. I’m just really proud of our staff and our students to make this possible.”

Superintendent of Schools Geoff Bruno said it is great to be recognized for student achievement and the quality of the faculty.

“It’s great; it’s an award that means a lot just because it’s comprehensive and focuses on the overall quality of educational experience the kids have in tough years,” Bruno said, referring to the difficulty students can experience in middle school.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, issued a joint statement, applauding all three Maine schools.

“Educators across Maine work tirelessly to help build a brighter future for our state, and these three Blue Ribbon schools are shining examples of that positive impact,” the senators said.

Adams and Mark Dissell, the middle school’s technology education teacher, will also go to Washington, D.C., for a two-day awards ceremony to receive the recognition on Nov. 7-8. In addition, Adams said they will host a school-wide event on Nov. 10 to celebrate the award.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Falmouth Middle School is one of three schools in Maine named a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.