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The U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday that Putnam County’s Rock Branch Elementary, Raleigh County’s Crescent Elementary and Wood County’s Criss Elementary are 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

“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,” U.S. Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a news release.

The three schools are among 325 across the nation to win the award this year, the release said.

“It is an understatement to say these schools have gone above and beyond to earn the National Blue Ribbon award,” West Virginia Board of Education President Miller Hall said in a statement. “The fact they were able to participate in this competitive process during this time while still caring for their children is impressive.”

Schools can win the award in one of two ways.

All three West Virginia schools won as “Exemplary High-Performing Schools,” meaning they were among West Virginia’s highest performing schools on state standardized tests. The other route to victory is closing achievement gaps between different student demographics.

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