Fourteen area schools were designated Georgia Title I Distinguished Schools by the state Department of Education on Thursday.
"These schools are showing that high expectations, coupled with effective educators in the building, produce outstanding student achievement," State Schools Superintendent John Barge said in a news release from the department. "I'm very pleased to recognize the educators, students and parents in these schools."
Title I schools are named depending on the amount of students on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, said Christine Brosky, director of grant administration for Gainesville City Schools. This year, as of October, the city school system had 75.91 percent of students who met that criteria.
"Title I is the largest source of federal education funding in existence. It provides over $14 billion to schools with high numbers of percentages of children that live in poverty," Brosky said. "The purpose is to ensure that all children meet challenging academic standards."
Money can be used for a variety of things, but it is highly regulated, Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.
Distinguished Schools, however, can receive additional money. For Title I schools that made Adequate Yearly Progress for three consecutive years, a "Distinguished School" certificate is issued. Those that made AYP for eight consecutive years or more receive a monetary award.
"We will use it for classroom materials based on need that has been established from teacher input and what our data tell us," said Jennifer Westbrook, assistant principal at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. "We will probably use it for materials that will support the (new curriculum standards) that we'll be implementing next year."
Those include materials for math and reading, she said.
Gainesville City Schools is a Title I district, meaning all of its schools are Title I.
Dyer said school officials were pleased with all of their schools, not just those receiving the designation.
"Of course we're very proud of those who have made that award, but I wouldn't consider our schools not distinguished to be of a lesser quality," she said.
The Distinguished Schools program began in 1999 but did not become dependent on AYP until 2002, Dyer said.
And not all schools on the list have been Title I for the same amount of time. The three receiving award money — Enota, Centennial Arts Academy and Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School — have been Title I longer than schools such as McEver Arts Academy.
"It reflects the hard work our teachers do with our children," said Catherine Rosa, principal at McEver, which has been a Title I school for nine years. "Our children come from a very diverse background, almost 90 percent of them from poverty situations, and our teachers do a wonderful job. We take pride in being considered a Title I school."
In all, there were 824 Georgia schools to receive the Distinguished Schools honor.
"That ought to be a real pat on the back for schools that have real challenging populations that continue to perform at a high academic level," Hall Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said. "We're very proud of them."