Two Southern Oregon elementary schools are among 16 schools recognized by state schools officials for significant academic gains among minority and low-income pupils.

Two Southern Oregon elementary schools are among 16 schools recognized by state schools officials for significant academic gains among minority and low-income pupils.

Merrill Elementary School in Klamath County, ranked among the top six schools for progress in bringing minority and low-income pupils toward proficiency in reading and math, was named a Celebrating Student Success Champion School.

Talent Elementary School was one of six schools that received the Rising Star Award, ranking just behind the "champion" schools for closing the achievement gap between white students and minority and low-income pupils.

The third Continuing Success category was for schools that won the awards in the past and have continued to make progress.

Champion schools will receive $3,000. Continuing Success schools receive $1,000. No monetary award was associated with Rising Star schools, but all schools will receive a trophy at a banquet May 9 at the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland.

This is the fourth year state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo has bestowed the awards. The Oregon Department of Education invited schools showing significant progress among minority and low-income pupils to apply for the awards. About 25 schools applied, and an ODE panel selected finalists based on test scores, graduation rates and other data from 2003-04 through 2006-07.

About 39 percent of Talent's 480 pupils are minorities. Twenty-two percent of its students are English language learners, and 12 percent of students are in special education. About one-third of students are involved in the school's Spanish-English immersion program.

About 84 percent of students met or exceeded benchmarks in math and reading on state tests.

In Talent's application for the award, Principal Aaron Santi said he attributed the school's progress to collaboration between teachers, specialized training for teachers to help students continue to learn content while they're learning English as a second language and enhanced services for the school's growing ELL population.

Santi could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.