Several Mid-Columbia schools were recognized Tuesday by state education officials for student performance, improving graduation rates and bringing up student scores in reading and math.
Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Richland and Washington Elementary School in Kennewick were designated for overall excellence in the 2012 Washington Achievement Awards, according to a press release from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Washington and Lewis & Clark's awards mean they are in the top 5 percent of schools in the state. Their students achieve at about the same levels regardless of differences in ethnicity or income.
More than a dozen other schools also received awards. Those in the Kennewick School District won the most in the region.
"It really does take a lot of work to catch students up," said Lorraine Cooper, Kennewick schools spokeswoman. "These schools are showing the commitment to that."
The awards were instituted four years ago to create accountability for schools, but also celebrate the strides made by teachers and administrators to better educate students.
Schools also earned awards for meeting specific two-year benchmarks in science, math, language arts, extended graduation rates and closing achievement gaps. Title 1 schools, which have low-income students, can be recognized for high performance if they are in the top 10 percent in reading and math performance and improvement for three years.
Kennewick's Lincoln, Southgate and Sunset View elementary schools, as well as Richland's Tapteal Elementary, were given science awards.
Pasco's Edwin Markham and Ruth Livingston elementary schools were recognized along with Kennewick's Southgate and Cascade elementary schools for closing student achievement gaps.
Richland's Sacajawea Elementary received an award for high progress as a Title 1 school, as did Pasco's Edwin Markham Elementary. Leslee Caul, spokeswoman for the Pasco School District, said district officials always are happy when the hard work of the schools' students and staff is recognized.
The North Franklin School District's Connell High School and Finley School District's River View High School were recognized for improving their graduation rates. Kiona-Benton City High School was given an award for closing achievement gaps.
All three high schools and Southgate Elementary won awards last year as well. Cooper said Lincoln and Washington elementary schools also have won the awards in past years.
"It seems like the momentum is growing," she said.
State officials slightly changed the awards this year, incorporating the awards and achievement criteria for the state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act -- federal legislation that was intended to improve student performance. The state was given a waiver from the legislation in 2012 and is instead following alternative accountability requirements.
"We're thrilled that the Achievement Awards have come to mean so much to schools and districts across the state," said State Board of Education Chairman Jeff Vincent in a release. "It's important to us at the state level to ensure that our work benefits everyone."