South Dover Elementary School has received a $50,000 academic award from the state, thanks to federal funding, for continued academic improvement of its students over the years and for narrowing the achievement gap.

South Dover Elementary School continues to bask in the limelight due its $50,000 win as an academic achievement award winning school in the state of Delaware.

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn presented South Dover with the Reward School banner that went with the cash prize during a trip to the Capital school Wednesday morning.

"This school was first among equals in overall growth and every single category, including closing the achievement gap for low income students, minority students and special education students," Denn said., citing state test scores "They're were a bunch of schools that got awards for progress, but these guys have been doing it for years.

"We like to see the achievement gap getting closed for these subgroups of kids," he said.

This year, the $50,000 award was given to 17 years rather $150,000 each to five schools, Denn said.

The state's Reward, Recognition and Distinguished Title I Schools and Schools of Continued Excellence Awards were created by legislation spearheaded by the lieutenant governor and passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 2009. Initially, recognized public schools were given $150,000 each for significantly closing the achievement gap and/or exceeding adequate yearly progress on state tests for two or more consecutive years. This year, the Delaware Department of Education expanded the number of schools recognized because of the federal $119 million Race to the Top award given to the First State and the U.S. Department of Education's approval of a new state school accountability system for Delaware.

Winners were selected based on 2011-12 data, state officials said.

Denn visits all of the schools to observe the different techniques being used to improve student achievement. At South Dover Wednesday, Denn observed students like Jalin Gregory, Rachael McDonough, JKwon Harber-Toppin and Laray Lopez participating in a vocabulary exercise in third grade teacher Shani Benson's class as well as Aaniya Marks, Samantha Ewton and Joyana Brooks independently using the state-of-the-art smart board in fourth grade Tina Metcalfe's class.

Denn has also been impressed with the low turnover rate for South Dover's staff.

Indeed, South Dover has some teachers and some paraprofessionals that have spent their entire career there. Principal Michelle Duke said.

"That's something that we're very, very proud of," Duke said. "They know it's a challenge and they just want to do their best.

"When you're a community school, that matters a lot," she said. "They want the teacher that their other children had. It matters; these teachers are part of the family. And it doesn't hurt to be a brand new school."

Reading specialist Jennifer O'Keefe, the Capital School District teacher of the year, agreed that the award reflected South Dover's strong community.

"I know at South that we do a great job of working together and that's why the success is so high," O'Keefe said. "Our Para educators, our reading specialists, our math interventionists and our teachers all come together to find out the needs, abilities and strengths of our children."

The $50,000 will help South Dover in its diagnostic approach to teaching students, Duke said.

"We don't look at numbers of students; we look at students individually," she said. "This $50,000 will help with professional development. It will help get more technology for students so that their learning can be more individualized."