A+ School of Excellence Award

The A+ School of Excellence™ Award program began in 1983 as a way to identify, celebrate, and recognize educational excellence in schools throughout Arizona. In addition to showcasing exceptional public schools, the A+ program provides school teams with an outstanding comprehensive framework that serves as a basis for school self-assessment and planning. The A+ School of Excellence™ award is a powerful energizer for increasing public confidence in recognized schools, often resulting in greater parent and community involvement and even serves as an economic driver for some communities. A+ Schools are celebrated and recognized as exceptional. Earning the highly prestigious and coveted A+ designation spotlights the positive successes happening in public schools every day.

"Becoming an A+ School was one of the best strategic planning experiences I had with my staff as a principal."

Brett Bonner, Asst. Superintendent for Educational Services, Sahuarita Unified School District

Ishikawa Elementary School, 2015

Photo credit: Tim Hacker, Mesa Public Schools



Schools who earn the distinguished A+ School of Excellence™ Award go above and beyond the everyday practices that all schools are expected to implement.  Applications should center around what makes your school exemplary.

Schools that ultimately earn the A+ School of Excellence™ designation consistently share the following traits:

  • Model quality and equity

  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to academic excellence

  • Respond successfully to the changing environment of education

  • Cultivate learning-centered, safe school environments

  • Encourage innovative instruction by supporting teachers

  • Actively address students' social, emotional, physical, and intellectual needs

  • Demonstrate superior ability to go above and beyond the norm in providing services to

      children, families, and the local community


Wondering which schools currently hold the title of A+ School of Excellence?

View the list of current active A+ Schools!

application deadline.

The 2021 A+ School of Excellence™ application deadline is August 31st, 2021. Applications must be submitted online by 5:00pm MST. Applications submitted after 5:00pm MST will be disqualified.


The A+ School of Excellence Award is open to any state accredited district or charter public school with some combination of grades Pre-K through 12. To be eligible, schools must fulfill all eligibility requirements.

the process.

To be considered for the A+ School of Excellence Award, schools begin by submitting a written application. Written applications are reviewed by a panel of experienced judges comprised primarily of A+ School principals along with superintendents and other district administrators. Panels may also include teachers from A+ Schools, higher education personnel, and other Pre-K-12 professionals.

The A+ School of Excellence Award is a multi-step process:

  • Step 1: Schools submit a written application.

  • Step 2: Written applications are reviewed by panel.

  • Step 3: If the written application is successful, schools are granted a site visit. Schools who do not receive a site visit are provided with written feedback and encouraged to incorporate that feedback in submitting a new application for the next cycle.

  • Step 4: Schools receiving site visits are visited by a team of judges who vet the programs and activities described in the written application. Site visits are a day and a half.

  • Step 5: Schools who have successful site visits are given the A+ Award. Schools who are unsuccessful are encouraged to reapply and are provided with written feedback and encouraged to incorporate that feedback in submitting a new application for the next cycle.


Schools selected for the award receive $500 and a banner for display on campus. A school retains the A+ designation for four years as long as they remain an “A” or “B” school and continue to exhibit the exceptional qualities that are the hallmark of A+ Schools. Schools that earn the award agree to comply with AEF™ authorized logo and name usage requirements related to the A+ School of Excellence™ designation.


For the 2021 Application Cycle:


August 31st, 2021: Application deadline

Late September 2021: Applications are reviewed by panels of A+ judges

October 2021: Schools are notified if a site visit will be conducted

October 2021 - February 2022: Site visits are conducted 

Late February/March 2022: A+ School of Excellence™ winners are announced/Award ceremonies occur

Schools renewing their A+ designation will reapply at the beginning of their fourth year. NOTE: A “renewal school” is a school applying for another consecutive term as an A+ school. Schools with a lapse in years are not considered renewals.

Example: A school earning the A+ Award in 2020 under the revised timeline will keep the A+ designation for these school years:

  • August 2020- July 2021 – Award year

  • August 2021- July 2022 – Year 2

  • August 2022- July 2023 – Year 3

  • August 2023-May 2024 – Final year: Schools submit renewal applications by August 31st; Schools successfully renewing may continue using the A+ Award designation; schools not renewing will discontinue use in May 2024.

expert tips.

Want tips on writing a successful application? View suggestions from A+ principals.


The A+ School of Excellence application must be submitted online. However, because schools are encouraged to work in teams to compile the application, a Microsoft Word version of the application is provided to allow for collaborative use on document-sharing sites such as Google Docs.


Below are links to the:

  • online application

  • Word version of application

  • full A+ application package, including the Word version of the application, eligibility, timeline, process, and writing tips.


Written applications are reviewed by panelists using a rubric. Schools are encouraged to download the rubric to use as a companion piece in writing the application.

staff contact.

For questions or more information, contact Kim Graham, Executive Director, at kim@azedfoundation.org.

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