CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In 2010, less than 30 percent of students at Richwood High School were proficient in reading and math -- ranking it as one of the lowest achieving high schools in West Virginia.
Since then, math scores on standardized tests have increased by 60 percent, and about half of the Richwood student body is now proficient in reading, which is higher than the state's average.
In a little more than a year, Richwood has improved from ranking 92nd of 124 high schools in the state to 40th, based on state test scores for reading/language arts.
Nicholas County Superintendent Beverly Kingery said Richwood's secret to success is simple: School Improvement Grants.
"SIG funds have been a godsend for Richwood High School, and the transformation educationally has been phenomenal," she said. "It has benefited students beyond expectation."
Over the course of two years, the 400-student high school has been awarded about $1 million in federal stimulus money as part of the Obama administration's plan to transform the country's substandard schools.
With the funding, the school has brought in specialists to train staff, revamped the schedule based on student need and sent teachers to national conferences to learn how to improve the school environment.
"Before this, most of these teachers had never had the opportunity to travel outside of Nicholas County to see what other schools were doing to succeed. Because of this, they have garnered new ideas and are continuing to build the school around a culture of success," Kingery said. "It hasn't only helped students learn -- teachers are learning, too."
Richwood is one of many schools in the state to receive SIG funding over the past few years. West Virginia has been awarded nearly $30 million since 2009.
But not everyone has success stories like Nicholas County.
Kanawha County was required to replace five principals to receive the funding. Although the school system did see academic improvements, administration says it wasn't worth the strings attached to the "overregulated process."