U.S. Department of Education honors Alachua charter school as one of the best

LILLIAN LAWSON   Gainesville Sun - 15.11 2023

Alachua Learning Academy (ALA) was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday as a National Blue Ribbon Award of Education recipient.

The public charter school is one of 353 schools so recognized for 2023. It is one of 14 schools in Florida and the only Alachua County public school to receive this recognition.


Two performance categories — based on student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates — are used to evaluate schools.

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

Schools nominated as gap-closing schools complete a narrative application that describes their school, such as culture, philosophy, curriculum, practices, development and involvement.

ALA was recognized as an Exemplary High-Performing School for its experienced and passionate faculty, personalized learning approach, emphasis on charter education, focus on well-being, positive and inclusive culture and its record as an A-grade school.

Principal KP Rivera attributes the academy’s success to its hard-working teachers, dedicated students and involved parents.

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“Parents in particular are excited; they’re proud of the school, and the teachers and their children for working hard, and I think lots of our parents know that we’re a good school,” he said in an interview. “We have lots of parents that drive from far to get their children here.”

ALA, established in 1999, serves grades K-8 and currently enrolls about 170 students. It has been recognized in the past by Nickelodeon for its lunch program, which consists of home-cooked, vegetarian meals. The school also scores in the top 3% for math, top 12% for reading and the top 10% for science in Florida.

"We feel honored and grateful that they thought of us," Rivera said. "We're just a small school and we're trying to do our best."

Students of Alachua Learning Academy in Alachua, Florida in May 2015.  

The U.S. Department of Education said in a release that the selected schools represent “the full diversity of American schools” and serve students of all backgrounds, acting as leaders and innovators for students, families and educators.

At least one-third of the public schools nominated by a state’s chief state school officer (CSSO) must be schools with a high percentage – generally at least 40% – of disadvantaged students. These students are defined by the CSSO of each state but may include economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, or migrant students.

Each year up to 420 schools nationwide may be nominated for the award. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has given approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,700 schools since the program started in 1982.