Louisiana has selected six public schools, including two in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans, to vie to be named Blue Ribbon schools of excellence, the nation’s top school honor.

Three are among the highest-performing public schools in the state: Baton Rouge Magnet High School, LSU Lab School in Baton Rouge and Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans. They have 1,477; 1,414; and 894 students, respectively.

The inclusion of Baton Rouge Magnet, a two-time winner, is a clear sign that the exclusion of magnet schools in the state from earning Blue Ribbons is over. The school’s alumni foundation protested the exclusion of magnet schools from the 2014 nominee list. The foundation posted the news of the school’s Blue Ribbon nomination on its website Thursday afternoon.

Ben Franklin, once a magnet school, is a selective public school in New Orleans and a three-time past winner. LSU Lab, which has students in every grade except pre-K, has never won a Blue Ribbon.

The other three nominees are: Martin Petitjean Elementary in Rayne, Pointe-aux-Chenes Elementary in Montegut and South Crowley Elementary in Crowley. Martin Petitjean has 405 students, followed by South Crowley with 312 and Pointe-aux-Chenes with 160.

These three schools are being nominated because they have shown substantial progress in closing the achievement gap between all students and historically low-performing subsets of students such as racial minorities and those living in poverty.

The Louisiana Department of Education released the nominee list at the request of The Advocate. States had until Jan. 12 to turn in their nominees to the U.S. Department of Education. Nominated schools now have to complete lengthy applications by March 20. The winners will be announced in September.

Last year, most but not all schools nominated by states ended up winning.

Fifty private schools, including two from Louisiana, also won last year. They were nominated by the Germantown, Maryland-based Council for American Private Education.

The state Department of Education generated controversy last year when it drew up new rules that, among other things, barred magnet schools from contending for Blue Ribbon honors. Two state lawmakers also protested when the state delayed for three weeks nominating Parkview Elementary in Baton Rouge, giving the school just eight days to complete its application. Parkview ended up winning anyway.

At the request of state Superintendent of Education John White, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in October dropped the new rules and now relies only on minimum federal criteria.