Riverside Elementary School District 96, Lyons Township High School District 204 and Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 were recognized as top school districts in the nation last month when all three received the 2005 Bright Red Apple Award of Excellence.

RBHS earned the Bright Red Apple Award, given to just 92 out of 886 (10 percent) Illinois school districts. Meanwhile, both District 96 and LTHS were recognized as Bright Red A+ Apple districts, an award given to just 64 districts (5 percent) in the state. The awards are based on information that helps families looking for relocate find relocate superior school districts.

SchoolSearch, the Kansas City-based company that gives the award, began granting Bright Red Apples in 1994. School districts that qualify are considered strong in five key areas, including academic performance, student/teacher ratio, expenditure per pupil, educational level of teachers and average teacher salary. Bother LTHS and District 96 have been recognized by the company for 11 straight years.

Criteria for granting the award include the districts’ performance on test scores. For elementary districts, at least 76.67 percent of students in the district must meet or exceed state goals on the Illinois State Achievement Test. For high schools, the composite score for all students on the ACT test must be at least 20.2.

In 2005

District 96 serves all of Riverside and parts of North Riverside and Brookfield, while Lyons Township High School serves many communities, including the southern half of Brookfield. Riverside-Brookfield High School’s boundaries include all of Riverside, part of North Riverside and the Hollywood section of Brookfield.

Dr. Jonathan Lamberson, District 96 superintendent, was quick to acknowledge his students as the impetus behind receiving the award.

“The accomplishments of our students have been remarkable,” he said. “Their performance really has been exceptional. I also credit our faculty. We have a high percentage of our faculty members that have accomplished their graduate work which is directly related to our students’ success.”

Lamberson also credited the student-teacher ratio policy of his district. District 96 has a maximum class size for 20 students per class for K-3 and 23 students per class in the fourth and fifth grades. The district closely monitors the ratio to make sure it does not exceed the maximum.

If a new student moves into the district, for example, the student may not be able to attend their neighborhood schools if their presence pushes the class size over the maximum. The policy has ensured that teachers can consistently prepare a lesson plan catered to a specific number of students, according to Lamberson.

Jennifer Bialobok, community relations coordinator for Lyons Township High School, wasn’t surprised that Lyons qualified yet again for the award. According to Bialobok, Lyons has consistently high ACT scores, but this year it has enjoyed a sizable increase of a half of a percent. Also, she said, 90 percent of its student who take AP courses test high enough to qualify for college credit.

“It really is another feather in our cap and it is really nice to be recognized,” she said. “Lyons prides itself on its highly educated faculty. Almost 85 percent of our teachers have their masters’ degree. They also only teach subjects that they are qualified to teach.

“Our student body constantly amazes us,” Bialobok added. “They are not just successful academically, they also are very involved and invested in our school. Many of our students participate in clubs … We really stress well-roundedness to our students and that is why we are successful.”