U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan presents a National Blue Ribbon School award to Arlington Traditional School Principal Holly Hawthorne. (Arlington Public Schools)

Five public schools were honored.Rachel Carson Elementary School in Montgomery County; Whitehall Elementary School in Prince George’s County; McKinley Technology High School in the District; Crofton Meadows Elementary School in Anne Arundel County; and Arlington Traditional School in Arlington County received the annual award.

Next line would be: The non-public schools that were honored included Blessed Sacrament School in the District, St. Peter’s School in Olney and Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg

Nationally, 269 schools received the honor.

The awards are given to schools where students perform at very high levels or where students have made significant improvements in academic achievement.

“Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential,” Arne Duncan, U.S. Education Secretary, said in a statement. “Schools honored with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award are committed to accelerating student achievement and preparing students for success in college and careers. Their work reflects the conviction that every child has promise and that education is the surest pathway.”

In Prince George’s County, which has made considerable progress on state test scores in recent years, school officials said they were thrilled that Whitehall Elementary received the recognition.

“It means that what we have been working on is paying off,” said Verjeana Jacobs, chairwoman of the school board. “It says we are going in the right direction.”

This is the second time in eight years that Arlington Traditional School has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.

“I want to congratulate the entire ATS community on receiving this prestigious honor,” Arlington School Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy said in a statement. “This recognition rewards the time that teachers spend each day making sure that their students have the tools to help them succeed in the classroom. It recognizes the time that students put into learning as well as the time that parents spend supporting their child’s education. The staff at ATS is to be recognized for building a strong foundation for its students to learn and grow.”

Larry Chep, principal at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg in Montgomery County, attributed the school’s success to its focus on the individual needs of the students. He credited the staff, the students and the parents, who have played an active role.

“I think it’s our attention to students, ensuring that each student gets what they need academically, socially and emotionally,” Chep said. “When you focus on individual needs you get great results.”

Chep said the school has also worked to eliminate the achievement gap and to improve math.

Nearly 7,000 schools across the country have been recognized in the past 30 years since the program has been in place.

This item has been updated.

Staff writer Susan Svrluga contributed to this report.