Middletown High School earned top honors and a $50,000 prize from the state department of education on Tuesday in recognition of its students' performance on state tests over the past two years.

Middletown High School earned top honors and a $50,000 prize from the state department of education on Tuesday in recognition of its students' performance on state tests over the past two years.

Middletown High was one of 15 schools in Delaware to be named a 2013 Recognition School during an award ceremony at Carrie Downie Elementary School in New Castle.

"I am thrilled to be able to honor these schools with an award that will help them expand services for our students," Lt. Gov. Matt Denn said during the ceremony. "As in past years, I will be trying to visit as many of these schools in person as I can, so we can learn from schools whose kids are succeeding – often in spite of serious challenges."

Recognition Schools can be selected based on two criteria, including exceptional performance and closing the achievement gap.

Middletown High was chosen for its exceptional performance on the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS). According to state education officials, student scores on the standardized tests placed Middletown High among the best in Delaware when scored using a combined English and math proficiency rating for all students and minority groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, students with disabilities, English language learners and students receiving free and reduced lunches.

Middletown High was the only non-charter and non-technical high school chosen as a Recognition School this year.

Middletown High School Principal Matt Donovan credited Tuesday's award to outstanding teamwork between teachers, administrators, parents and students.

"Our teachers keep the bar high and develop innovative teaching strategies to help students hit the mark," he said. "Our students push themselves to great heights. They achieve excellence, which also pushes that demand into the core classes … Parents collaborate with schools to help reinforce school initiatives and promote the advancement from our programing."

That teamwork has resulted in positive climate in the school that has paved the way for student success, he said.

"Our success in test scores has a direct correlation to students understanding and buying into the high expectations at Middletown High School," Donovan explained. "Further, we have created building goals to reduce the achievement gap, which has proven to make everyone better. The gap is closing and there is also improvement throughout the entire population."

Middletown High will have considerable discretion in how to spend their $50,000 prize, although each winner named Tuesday is expected to appoint a committee to determine how the funds with be used.

Funding for the Recognition Schools prizes comes from the $119 million federal Race to the Top grant Delaware was awarded in 2010.

The award program was previously known as the Academic Achievement Awards which provided $150,000 prizes to five public schools in the state each year.

Last year, the award program was changed to the Reward, Recognition and Continued Excellence Awards, when Appoquinimink High School won a $50,000 prize as a Recognition School.

Appoquinimink High opted to spend $42,000 of its grant on professional development for staff and technology upgrades, while the remaining $8,000 was earmarked for a student celebration that took place in June.

Other schools recognized during Tuesdays' award program included two Reward Schools, or Title I schools identified for being either the highest performing or having the highest progress. Those schools also receive $50,000 grants.

A dozen Schools of Continued Excellence also were recognized. Those schools received Reward or Recognition School distinction last year and continue to sustain their accomplishments. They are not eligible to receive cash prizes until 2014.

This year's award winners included:

Reward Schools

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Christina School District

Sussex Academy, Georgetown

Recognition Schools

Charter School of Wilmington, Red Clay School District

Carrie Downie Elementary School, Colonial School District

East Millsboro Elementary School, Indian River School District

Georgetown Elementary School, Indian River School District

Georgetown Middle School, Indian River School District

Hanby Elementary School, Brandywine School District

Lake Forest East Elementary School, Lake Forest School District

Lake Forest North Elementary School, Lake Forest School District (also a Title I Distinguished school awardee)

Lake Forest South Elementary School, Lake Forest School District

Long Neck Elementary School, Indian River School District

R. Elisabeth Maclary Elementary School, Christina School District(also a Title I Distinguished school awardee)

Middletown High School, Appoquinimink School District

North Dover Elementary School, Capital School District

W. B. Simpson Elementary School, Caesar Rodney School District

St. Georges Technical High School, New Castle County Vocational Technical School District

Schools of Continued Excellence

Beacon Middle School, Cape Henlopen School District

John M. Clayton Elementary School, Indian River School District

William B. Keene Elementary School, Christina School District

Kuumba Academy Charter School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School, Indian River School District

Evelyn I. Morris Early Childhood Center, Milford School District

Newark Charter School

Rehoboth Elementary School, Cape Henlopen School District

Richard A. Shields Elementary School, Cape Henlopen School District

Phillip C. Showell Elementary School, Indian River School District

Nellie Hughes Stokes Elementary School, Caesar Rodney School District

Sunnyside Elementary School, Smyrna School District