Five Washington area elementary schools have been nominated by their states and the District for a national academic excellence award given by the U.S. Department of Education.

In a statement announcing the nominees, the department said the goal of the recognition program is to focus national attention on schools that are doing "an exceptional job of educating virtually all their students." There is special emphasis on student achievement in reading and mathematics, on the school's record for solving problems and sustaining progress, and on its success in tailoring programs to local circumstances and needs.

The District of Columbia schools nominated are the Bunker Hill and Smothers elementary schools. In Virginia, the nominees are the Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington and the Falls Church Elementary School in Falls Church. In Maryland, Rockville's College Gardens Elementary School was nominated.

A 35-member team composed primarily of educators will visit the five local schools and 252 other American schools and make its final recommendations in June on which schools should be honored. There is no limit on the number of schools that may be recognized in any jurisdiction.

This year marks the first time in the department's three-year recognition program that public elementary schools will be cited for exceptional programs. In the past, the department has singled out secondary schools.

The winners will be honored this fall at a ceremony in Washington.