Both STISD Middle Schools Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools

Both STISD Middle Schools Named 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona today recognized 325 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021, including both South Texas Independent School District (STISD) middle schools – STISD Preparatory Academy (Preparatory Academy) in Edinburg and STISD Rising Scholars Academy (Rising Scholars Academy) in San Benito – based on their overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Secretary Cardona. “I commend this school and all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.  Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

Schools are eligible for nomination after five years. This is the second time that Preparatory Academy has received this distinction, as the campus is also a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School. Ana Castro, Preparatory Academy principal, expresses pride in her campus community for achieving such a high honor. “It is a privilege and an honor for me to lead the Preparatory Academy community. We are dedicated and committed to providing the best learning opportunities for our students, and this recognition validates the hard work and dedication of our entire team.”

It is the first time that Rising Scholars Academy has received the distinction in the six years since its founding.

San Juanita Ortiz, Rising Scholars Academy principal, expresses the excitement of her campus in response to receiving this award, “Being named and recognized as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School yields the excellence that is associated with STISD Rising Scholars Academy (RSA). Since its inception in 2015, RSA maintains an exemplary reputation. It is with great aspirations and hard work that RSA has been able to reach such a goal. The school’s vision, mission, and core values speak volumes of the school community and culture and the reflection of student success does not go unnoticed. Congratulations to all students, support staff, and faculty in reaching this prestigious recognition! Go Rockets!”

Both Preparatory Academy and Rising Scholars Academy are planning celebrations for their campus communities the week of Sept. 27.

Two other STISD campuses received the award previously, with STISD Science Academy in Mercedes being named a 2005 National Blue Ribbon School, and STISD Health Professions in Mercedes being named a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School.

South Texas ISD Preparatory Academy and South Texas ISD Rising Scholars Academy are the two standalone middle schools within South Texas Independent School District. The campuses serve 7th and 8th-grade students from three counties in the Rio Grande Valley – Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy – through a rigorous academic curriculum, enabling them to earn above-grade-level coursework and develop the skills and habits necessary for success in higher learning while still in junior high. For additional information, visit or call 1-800-21STUDY.

Photographs and brief descriptions of the 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools are available at