Nine area schools have been honored on a state level as Schools of Distinction, it was announced Monday.

The award is given to the top 5 percent of Washington schools that have attained the most reading and math growth over the past five years. The long-term growth is calculated using test scores from standardized tests including Smarter Balanced, high school proficiency exams and high school end-of-course math results.  

Winning schools in the Yakima and Kittitas valleys include:

• Cle Elum-Roslyn High School, Cle Elum

• Moxee Elementary, East Valley

• Robert Lince Elementary, Selah

• Sunnyside High School, Sunnyside

• Union Gap School, Union Gap

• Barge-Lincoln Elementary, Yakima

• Discovery Lab School, Yakima

• Robertson Elementary, Yakima

• Zillah Middle School, Zillah

There were 90 schools in Washington recognized as schools of distinction.

According to a news release from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, five of these schools are first-time winners — Lince, Sunnyside, Barge-Lincoln, Robertson and Zillah. Cle Elum-Roslyn is a four-time winner, Discovery Lab won in 2007, Moxee has won for a third consecutive year, and Union Gap received the distinction for a fourth consecutive year.

In the case of Lince Elementary, its award will likely reside at Selah Intermediate School as Lince is no longer an elementary school because the district restructured its schools.

In Sunnyside, the recognition — which will include a banner and an all-school assembly — is a symbol of the transformation the high school’s culture underwent over the past five years. Sunnyside High was recognized for its improvements in assessments — and not its well-documented increases in graduation rates.

Principal Ryan Maxwell said he recalls when the high school was one of the lower-performing schools in the state. School officials motivated and galvanized staff and faculty to work harder and engage students on a more individual level. A support system took shape, which balanced social, personal and academic support; now the efforts are paying dividends.

“We wanted to be a school of distinction,” he said. “That was something we wanted to earn ... This is an award for all of our kids.”

Union Gap Superintendent Kurt Hilyard said there is no secret to the district’s unique success — only 11 schools in the state have been recognized four years or more. Monthly data meetings among each grade level, progress monitoring and a good teacher workforce are three of the reasons Union Gap is succeeding, Hilyard added.

“It kind of validates what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re conscious of what we’re doing from the start of the day to the final bell.”

Started in 2007, the Schools of Distinction awards is a product of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. However, it has since been presented to schools by six other state education organizations.

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