A+ School of Excellence

A+ School of Excellence™

is a comprehensive school assessment program that challenges school teams to work together to identify areas of excellence in teaching, learning, climate, community building, and leadership.

A+ Schools are celebrated and recognized as outstanding. Earning the highly prestigious A+ designation spotlights the positive successes happening in public schools every day.

Ishikawa Elementary School, 2015

Photo credit: Tim Hacker, Mesa Public Schools


deadline & application

 The deadline for 2021 A+ School of Excellence applications is

5:00pm, January 7th, 2021.

2021 A+ School of Excellence Application

Download a Word version of the A+ Application




  • The school must be a state accredited district or charter public school with some combination of grades Pre-K through 12.


  • Schools must be rated by the Arizona Department of Education as an “A” or “B” school for the most recent school year for which letter grades are available and demonstrate high student academic achievement or growth over time for all students through other assessments (see questions 34 and 35 of the A+ application).

  • The school must be in at least its 6th full year of operation in its current (or similar) grade configuration when the application is submitted.

  • The school or school district is not refusing Office of Civil Rights (OCR) access to information necessary to investigate a civil rights complaint or to conduct a district-wide compliance review.

  • The OCR has not issued a violation letter of findings to the school district concluding that the nominated school or the district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes. A violation letter of findings will not be considered outstanding if OCR has accepted a corrective action plan from the district to remedy the violation.

  • The U.S. Department of Justice does not have a pending suit alleging that the nominated school or the school district as a whole has violated one or more of the civil rights statutes or the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

  • The school must not have been recognized as an A+ School of Excellence™ in 2017, 2018, or 2019. Previously recognized schools are eligible to reapply for the award after their 3-1/2-year status has expired.

  • The school’s principal must have completed at least 3 full years as leader of the applicant school when the application is submitted.


  • Schools submit applications that provide demographic information, a description of current programs and practices, documentation of parent and community involvement, a profile of the school’s leadership and commitment to excellence, equity, service.


  • Schools must demonstrate sustained high achievement or significant improvement through assessment data.


  • Winning schools are recognized for their superior ability to identify and meet the academic and non-academic needs of their student population.


  • The selection panel includes award-winning principals, district leaders, teachers, and community partners. Panel members conduct pre-arranged site visits to selected schools throughout the state in order to choose A+ School of Excellence™ award winners. Schools that receive site visits are provided with information in advance to prepare for the site visit.

  • Each school receives an awards celebration at their school where they are presented with $500 and a banner designating it as an A+ School of Excellence™.

  • As long as eligibility requirements are met, schools retain their A+ status for 3 1/2 years. If you are unsure about your status or need to renew, please contact AEF.

application rating criteria and review process


Application Rating Criteria


Stakeholders clearly go above and beyond the expected norms of practice, and the exemplary school practices can serve as benchmarks for excellence in schools. Response contains outstanding innovative and creative initiatives that go above and beyond the expected norm. Schools may have outstanding programs in specific grade levels or content areas that are unique, coordinated among multiple grade levels, and multi-disciplinary. Programs and practices must be clearly related to the school’s stated vision and mission. These practices may be unique to the school and should provide a much deeper and broader understanding of the content area, diversity and inclusion practices, and/or community involvement.



Programs and practices are sound and meet the expected norms for Arizona schools. The public’s expectations are high for all schools; many creative practices have been adopted by individual schools to strengthen their programs. Schools that have good programs for parent involvement, co-curricular activities, community partnerships, and high achievement for students are to be commended, but to qualify as an A+ School of Excellence™ there must be clear evidence of extraordinary efforts and results related to these programs.



Response is incomplete, lacks sufficient evidence, or is deficient in detail to meet acceptable standards or to make determination of merit. An inadequate response most often occurs as a result of not having sufficient documentation to substantiate or determine the merit of claims made in the application or by not addressing the prompts in each section.


Application Review Process

  • The Selection Panel reviews and evaluates all written applications for completeness, accuracy, and evidence documentation. The Selection Panel is comprised of experts including district administrators, A+ School of Excellence™ principals and staff, university faculty, business leaders, and other expert consultants.

  • The quality of the written document will have considerable influence on how the Selection Panel evaluates the application. Complete descriptions of school policies, programs, practices, and results with supporting evidence are essential ingredients of a successful school application. Responses throughout the application must be well-written and carefully reviewed for content and style before being submitted. Failure to directly and concretely address critical elements of each section will result in an unfavorable review even though the school’s programs and practices may in reality be excellent.

  • To qualify for a site visit, the application must address all elements of the application, and no section of the application can receive an “Inadequate” rating. The Selection Panel will score every section of the application and assign a rating of “Exemplary,” “Adequate” or “Inadequate” to each section; see above for descriptions of what constitutes each of these ratings. Any of the following may result in an “Inadequate” rating in any section of the application: claims made in the application that are not supported by solid evidence (data, participation rates, anecdotes, etc.); falling far short of word limitations; a poorly-written application (i.e. grammatical, spelling and syntactical errors, lack of clarity or specifics, a noticeable change in writing style within the application, etc.); failure to provide a narrative that demonstrates the specific impact of practices and programs; or a failure to respond to prompts in the application. Schools that do not qualify for a visit will receive written feedback from the Selection Panel.

  • The Site Visit Panel is comprised of evaluators including district administrators, A+ School of Excellence™ principals and staff, business leaders, and expert consultants. Members of the Site Visit Panel form individual Evaluator Teams that conduct day-and-a-half-long site visits to qualifying schools. Evaluator Teams vary in size based on the number of students at the applicant school.

  • The purpose of a site visit is to validate, observe, and affirm the contents of the application. Judges must be able to observe and verify with fidelity the claims that are made throughout the application. During a school’s site visit the judges will: observe all classrooms; meet with students, staff, parents, and community members; interview individuals; meet with school leadership; and review documentation.

  • After all site visits have been completed, each Evaluator Team presents its report to the entire Site Visit Panel, which meets to make final decisions about which schools will receive the A+ School of Excellence™ award. Schools are notified of the results following the final meeting of the Site Visit Panel. Schools not selected to receive the award after the site visit are provided with feedback.



Applications Due

January - April

Applications are screened, Site visits occur


Schools are notified

Mid-April - May

Award celebrations happen statewide

staff contact.

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

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