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Three Utah schools have been named 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Friday.

Canyon Crest Elementary School in Provo, Dixie Sun Elementary School in St. George and Quail Hollow Elementary School in Sandy are being honored for overall excellence and for improving student progress in several academic areas.

The schools were among 269 across the nation to receive the designation, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a news release.

"Our nation has no greater responsibility than helping all children realize their full potential," Duncan said. "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 to a strong, secure future."

Schools selected for the Blue Ribbon awards are recognized at a November ceremony in Washington, D.C. A total of 417 schools are nominated for the awards by each state's top education official. This year, 219 public schools and 50 private schools received Blue Ribbon honors.

The awards were created 30 years ago and recognize schools in two categories: Exemplary High Performing and Exemplary Improving. The first honor is reserved for the state's highest performing school in state assessments and nationally normed tests. The second is for schools that have at least 40 percent of a population categorized as low-income and have managed to increase student achievement on tests.

News of the awards was welcome at Utah's winning schools.

Pat Anderson, principal of Canyon Crest Elementary, credited her staff of teachers for helping students succeed.

"It's vitally important that every classroom at Canyon Crest be a happy, nurturing place where our teachers and I would want to place our own children and grandchildren," Anderson said in a statement. "As a faculty, I think we love coming to school each day and being part of the satisfying work of educating children. Maybe in receiving this award, that shows."

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