Four area elementary schools were given top honors Tuesday afternoon.
Demorest Elementary in Habersham County and Settles Bridge Elementary, Shiloh Point Elementary and Vickery Creek Elementary in Forsyth County were all named 2011 Georgia Schools of Excellence.
"This designation is the end result of our teachers' and staff members' concerted efforts to improve student achievement," Demorest Elementary Principal Connie Yearwood said in an email to The Times.
"The teachers and students all feel a sense of pride knowing that their hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. ... We will continue to seek to improve so that our students will have the best learning experiences we can possibly provide for them."
In a Forsyth County news release, Shiloh Point Elementary Principal Rebecca Johnson said the school is "humbled and honored" by the recognition.
"This award exemplifies the tireless and long-term commitment of our teachers, students and parents partnering together," Settles Bridge Elementary Principal Donna Morris said in the news release.
The four schools join 22 other Georgia schools that have shown either the greatest improvement or highest achievement.
"These schools are showing that excellence can be achieved when they focus on providing a world-class education for their students," State Schools Superintendent John Barge said in a news release.
One public school from each congressional district is chosen in two categories: the top 10 percent, as measured by reading and math assessments in at least the last grade tested, and the greatest continuous gains category, which looks at student achievement in math and reading over the past three years.
Settles Bridge and Demorest elementaries were named in the greatest gains category, and Vickery Creek and Shiloh Point in the top 10 percent.
Additional criteria for the designation, according to the Georgia Department of Education, includes making Adequate Yearly Progress for at least three consecutive years and meeting or exceeding state average scores in science and social studies, among others.
Schools are not eligible to be recognized more than once in a five-year period unless all the other possible schools have won within the past five years.
Each of the 26 schools will receive a $1,000 check from Georgia Natural Gas as part of the program.
"We are thrilled that the hard work of our teachers and students at these three elementary schools has been recognized as Georgia Schools of Excellence," Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans said in a news release.
"Our schools are making great gains in student achievement and are focused on providing the very best learning experience for students and their families."