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


Temporary Changes to A+ Application Process for 2021-2022 Cycle​

Recognizing the challenges our Arizona schools and districts have experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic began; and, in appreciation for the incredible way that school employees have shown extreme dedication these past several months, AEF is temporarily revising the A+ School of Excellence application process for the 2021-2022 cycle (applications due on August 31st, 2021).


Traditionally, schools seeking A+ status must have received an “A” or “B” letter grade from the Arizona Department of Education for the most recently completed school year; however, given that last year was cut short by COVID and letter grades were not issued, AEF recognizes that many schools had exhibited growth and were expecting to receive a letter grade qualifying them to apply for the 2021 A+ School of Excellence Award.


Given the extreme circumstances, AEF will accept applications for the 2021-2022 from schools who do not have an “A” or “B” letter grade from ADE who can demonstrate achievement and growth expected of an A+ School of Excellence. These particular applicant schools will be provided with an additional link to upload data sets. Data sets should include both quantitative data reports that show student growth levels and academic achievement (Example: Benchmark data generated from platforms such as ATI/Galileo, iReady Diagnostics, SchoolCity, etc.) as well as qualitative data showing perceptions around how the school is doing with educating students (such as parent surveys). Data may be derived from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.


In summary, schools who received an “A” or “B” letter grade from ADE may apply as they normally would; schools who did not receive an “A” or “B” but believe that they would have if COVID had not caused an interruption, may also apply, but they must provide the additional qualitative and quantitative data in lieu of the letter grade.


If you believe your school qualifies under this special provision, please contact Matthew Feller at matthew@azedfoundation.org.


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 2021-2022 A+ School of Excellence Cycle has seen a temporary change in the eligibility requirements. Please read the yellow note at the top of this page for more information.

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

Renewal School Timeline:

Schools earning the award in Spring 2017 reapply August 31st, 2021

Schools earning the award in Spring 2018 reapply August 31st, 2022

Schools earning the award in Spring 2019 AND the recently announced 2020 schools: reapply August 31st, 2023

expert tips.

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

Get expert A+ tips from Brett Bonner and Darlene Robinson of Sahuarita School District.


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.