By TRAVIS MORSE email@example.com
---- — MT. VERNON — Summersville Grade School and Waltonville High School have been honored with Bright Star Awards of Excellence for 2013.
The annual award, from the SchoolSearch firm, is given to districts whose students' academic performance ranks in the upper third of Illinois school districts, but whose expenditure per student is in the lower quarter of districts.
“It's something (we're) very appreciative of,” said Summersville Superintendent Mark Zahm. “It's a reflection of the community.”
Elementary and high school districts were judged for the award on their 2012 test scores and their average operating expenditure for that year.
For elementary schools to qualify, third through eighth grade students had to meet or exceed state standards in math and reading by achieving an average ISAT score at or above 89.17 percent. Summersville students had an average score of 92 percent in 2012.
For high schools, the students had to achieve an average composite ACT score at or above 21.0 for 2012. Waltonville's composite score was 22.3 that year.
Shlonda Horton, superintendent/principal of Waltonville, said she attributes her school's high test scores to the hard work and dedication of students and staff.
“If it wasn't for the students' hard work and taking the ACT test seriously, then we wouldn't have the scores that we do,” Horton said.
The Bright Star criteria for average operating expenditure per student was at or below $8,746 for elementary schools and at or below $8,895 for high schools.
Summersville's cost for 2012 was $6,871 and Waltonville's cost was $6,970.
“I do view it as a major honor. I'm very excited,” Horton said of the award. “It shows we can still accomplish our goals even with less funding.”
Zahm said he and the Summersville Board of Education will keep working to improve their district. They are continuing the vision of former superintendent Anita Hays, who retired June 30, Zahm said.
This year, the Summersville Board has invested in new math workbooks for students to allow them to complete more problems, Zahm said.
Also, school officials are expanding the district's report card this year so more detailed information can be provided to parents on their child's performance.
“We have a great staff that's always looking for ways to improve,” Zahm said.
This year, 91 Illinois school districts out of a total of 866 have received the Bright Star Award of Excellence.
SchoolSearch, which gives out the awards, is an educational research and consulting firm that publishes rankings of school systems.
The idea behind the award is to shine a light on schools that are performing well despite their financial challenges, states a SchoolSearch news release.
“Major areas of concern cited by Bright Star recipients are lack of funding for technology, overcrowded conditions, large class sizes, and buildings in need of repair,” the release states. “SchoolSearch believes Bright Star recipients should be acknowledged and considered for additional funding. It is likely that these districts would make efficient use of additional funds based on past performance.”