Patricia A. Lawton, the principal at Red House Run from 1999 through June of this year, attributed some of that school's success to the teachers' attention to how their students learn best. During a lesson on the 13 Colonies, a teacher might write key dates on the chalkboard, talk about the historic events and have students act out some of the history - incorporating multiple styles of learning.
"Our teachers truly looked at every child," said Lawton, now director of special education for the county school system. "They weren't just teaching a class, but every child in that class."
The lessons were also reinforced during art, music and physical education. When students were playing basketball, they were also counting and doing math drills.
Some of the other winners, which serve wealthier populations, are quick to point out their built-in advantages.
At Hereford Middle, parents are always on hand to volunteer, said Principal Cathy Walrod. They're committed to getting their children to school and working with teachers when a problem arises.
"Parents are extremely invested in their children's education," Walrod said. "The children know their parents care and they rise up."
Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt and John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.
Read The Sun education blog at www.baltimoresun.com/classroom.
Maryland's Blue Ribbon Schools
Maryland had seven of the country's 287 Blue Ribbon Schools:
George Washington Elementary in Baltimore
Red House Run Elementary in Baltimore County
Hereford Middle in Baltimore County
Burleigh Manor Middle in Howard County
River Hill High in Howard County
St. Andrew Apostle School in Montgomery County
Winston Churchill High in Montgomery County