Both Lyons Township High School and Riverside-Brookfield High School have been recognized by a private company as among the top 5 percent of high schools in the state of Illinois.

SchoolSearch, a Kansas City-based firm that helps families looking to relocate find superior school districts, awarded both local high schools its Bright Red A+ Apple Award. In Illinois, just 24 high school districts and 37 elementary and unit districts (out of a total of 879 districts) were recognized with Bright Red A+ awards.

The firm released the names of Bright Red A+ districts in mid-February. Other area high school districts receiving the award included Oak Park and River Forest High School, Downers Grove Unit District 99 and Elmhurst Unit District 205.

“We’re proud of it,” said RB Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann. “I think it’s a testament to the hard work of our students and teachers. And it’s an important way to quantify our success. It shows other people can hold us accountable. It’s not just us patting ourselves on the back.”

In order to gain Bright Red A+ recognition, high schools are graded on their ACT composite scores. Districts with an ACT score of 22.2 or higher qualified for the award. The Illinois state average score on the ACT test is 20.2.

The highest performing high school district in Illinois according to SchoolSearch was New Trier District 203, serving Winnetka and Northfield. The ACT average there was 26.8.

In 2005, while LT was recognized as a Bright Red A+ district, RB was not. RB was, however, named by SchoolSearch as among the top 10 percent of districts in the state last fall when the company announced its annual Bright Red Apple Award winners.

Lyons Township High School serves Brookfield students who live within Lyons Township. Riverside-Brookfield High School serves all of Riverside and North Riverside, Brookfield residents living in both Proviso and Riverside townships, as well as parts of LaGrange Park, Broadview and Lyons.

D96 barely misses A+ cut

Local elementary school districts receiving the award were LaGrange Highlands School District 106, River Forest District 90 and Western Springs District 101.

Left off the Bright Red A+ list in 2006, however, was Riverside Elementary School District 96, which made the 2005 list, even though it looks to have qualified according to SchoolSearch’s own criteria.

For elementary school districts to qualify for the award, according to a release issued by SchoolSearch on Feb. 16, 88.2 percent of students taking the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) must meet or exceed state standards in reading and math.

According to Riverside’s school report card issued by the Illinois State Board of Education last fall, 88.3 percent of District 96 students met or exceeded state standards across all subjects, which was a slight increase in performance over 2004’s scores.

But according to Dee Shugart, president of SchoolSearch, District 96 fell just short of the 88.2 percent mark when looking at just reading and math. Shugart said that combining those two subjects, 87.57 percent of students in District 96 met or exceeded state standards, meaning the district fell less than .7 of a percent short of meeting the mark set by the company.

“Essentially it means there’s no difference between us and those schools,” said District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson. “And our [ISAT] score is higher than last year and the highest on any record I’ve been able to find. That’s what we want to see in terms of continuing improvement.

“We’re very pleased with the performance of our students,” he added. “Though this indicates that there’s also room for improvement.”