Principal Dale Brown said Booker T. Washington Elementary School has been through an interesting journey since he took the job in 2012.

“A lot of people would say it’s impossible to go from focus school status to a Title I Distinguished School,” he said.

A focus school is a federal status for schools that are struggling academically and where the achievement gap between low- and high-income students is large. National Title I Distinguished schools are chosen for their exceptional performance on state tests or closing the achievement gap.

Booker T. Washington Elementary was just one school highlighted by the state Jan. 11 for being Reward, Recognition or Title I Distinguished schools.

Title I schools have a high percentage of low income students.

The only other school in Delaware to be named Title I Distinguished was Lake Forest North Elementary School.

Reward schools are Title I schools that are the highest performing or show the greatest growth in performance on standardized tests.

Recognition schools are chosen for showing exceptional performance and closing the achievement gap.

Brown said the extended day program had much to do with their success. The extended day program enabled teachers to provide extra help for students who didn’t understand the lessons during the day.

“We’ve taken the mantra of looking at each and every child,” Brown said. Once I found out you weren’t getting it today during the actual school day in the extended day I would find out exactly what that student needed.”

In the Caesar Rodney School District W. Reily Brown Elementary School and Nellie Hughes Stokes Elementary were both recognition schools. Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald said this is first time Brown has received such an honor.

“They have really turned the building around,” he said.

Fitzgerald said much of the success is due to the Leader In Me Program, which teaches students the importance of leadership.

“The Leader In Me Program has been a catalyst for the job at that school. It’s good to see the ownership the students have of their education,” he said. “Brown has always been a good school but for the longest time their test scores weren’t on par with our other schools and you’ve seen that change over the last year.”

Lake Forest North Elementary Principal Alexis Ray said the school has thrived by offering extra tutoring before and after school.

Much like Booker T. Washington they used standardized test results to figure out students' strengths and weaknesses.

“Each administrator has a different bag of tricks,” Ray said.

Assistant Principal Erin Dotson said the designation “means that we put our students first and that we’ll go above and beyond whatever it takes to make sure they are successful.”

Dotson said students have been benefiting from interacting with reading and other specialists who visit the school and run smaller group discussions.

Each of the schools will receive $8,000. The National Title I Schools will receive an additional $2,000.  

A committee at each school will decide where to spend the money.

Recognition school winners include Academy of Dover Charter School and John M. Clayton, Robert S. Gallaher, North Dover, Seaford Central, Phillip C. Showell and Jennie E. Smith elementary schools.

Two reward schools were cited: Lake Forest East Elementary and East Millsboro Elementary.