U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized Manzanita Elementary School in Tucson, as a high performing school and presented it with the National Blue Ribbon Schools award.

“We are so honored to receive this,” said Colleen Nichols, the school’s principal.

Manzanita is in the Catalina Foothills School District, and one of three school in Arizona receiving the award. The other two in the state are Challenger Basic School in Gilbert, and Cooper Canyon Elementary School in Scottsdale.

The U.S. Department Of Education recognized 269 schools nationwide based on their overall academic excellence or for making progress in improving student academic achievement levels. Manzanita received the “Exemplary High Performing.”

“We have been labeled an excelling school by the Arizona Department of Education,” Nichols said. “It’s really a systemic approach to education and I think that test scores are a reflection of that, but it isn’t everything. There’s a lot more behind the scenes to help children achieve academically and also socially and emotionally.”

Nichols attributes the schools’ success to strict hiring practices for teachers and parent-involvement.

“They help out with extracurricular activities, they help in the classroom, and they seem to be very invested in their child’s education,” she said.

Nichols will attend the award ceremony in Washington D.C. in November.