EVANS, W.Va. — The U.S. Department of Education recognized two West Virginia schools as 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools based on their overall academic excellence.

Evans Elementary School in Jackson County and Gihon Elementary School in Wood County were the two schools honored by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“We were definitely excited,” said Matthew Howery, the principal at Evans Elementary. “We had a little celebration with the kids. We watched the video-recorded message from Secretary Duncan online and all the kids cheered.”

The National Blue Ribbons Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools for improvements in closing achievement gaps and for achieving high learning standards, according to a news release.

Evans and Gihon schools were awarded for their hard work from both students and teachers, for high test scores and for high attendance.

“The teachers are terrific. All research tells us that the most important variable that you can give is the quality of instruction given to the student and our staff is hands down just great,” said Howery.

Howery said their success comes from teachers, but really begins at home with parents.

“We have a small community here that’s filled with mostly middle class families and some of those middle class values are instilled in those kids. They come and they work hard. They do what we ask them to do,” he said.

The 285 public and 50 private schools were named based on one of two performance categories, the release said:

—Exemplary High Performing Schools: the state’s highest performing schools measured by state or national assessments, student subgroup performance and high graduation rates.

—Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools: the state’s highest performing schools measured by closed achievement gaps between a school’s subgroups and all students over the past five years, student subgroup performance and high graduation rates.

Howery said although being nationally recognized is an honor, their work isn’t done.

“We just look at it as a recognition that ‘hey, we’re doing the right things.’ We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, but we’re going to keep working hard,” he said. “It’s nice to be told ‘you’re doing a good job,’ but we still have plenty of work ahead of us.”

A recognition ceremony will be held in Washington D.C. Nov. 9-10.