Whale Branch Middle School has won its second national award of the school year, the most recent one in recognition of its improving attitudes and atmosphere.
The National School Change Award from the National Principals Leadership Institute is one of six given nationwide.
It's the third year Whale Branch Middle has applied for the award, which uses 16 criteria to measure changes in attitudes that result in improved student performance. The school received honorable mention in its previous attempts.
Principal Matthew Hunt said the application includes scores on standardized assessments, other awards the school has won and state data on parent and teacher satisfaction.
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Hunt said the school is not only making academic gains -- it has improved from an "at-risk" to a "good" rating on its state report card in four years -- it is changing its culture with the help of the area's religious community and the Sheldon Township.
Last month, the school won the Teacher Advancement Program Founder's Award, and a $50,000 prize, for its merit-pay system for teachers.
Hunt said the recognition means the school has to strive for even better results in the future.
"In education, whenever you get to the top of the mountain, a new bar is set," he said. "There is not a top. It's infinite."
The award will be presented later this year in a ceremony at the school.