The founder and leader of one of the District’s top-performing charter schools was surprised Tuesday with a $25,000 award for her efforts to close the achievement gap.

Shantelle Wright leads Achievement Prep Public Charter School, whose students — mostly from low-income Ward 8 families — score far above the citywide average on math and reading tests.

She was one of three educators across the country to receive the Ryan Award, meant to highlight leaders of schools who are helping poor and minority students achieve success at uncommonly high rates.

“There are lots of wonderful awards for teachers but I’ve never seen a great school without a great leader,” said Pat Ryan Jr. of the Chicago-based Accelerate Institute, an organization dedicated to training principals to succeed in high-poverty schools.

Ryan flew to Washington to deliver an oversized check to Wright during an all-school assembly at Achievement Prep.

“All these jobs are tough, but the leadership job is a lonely one, and they give so much of themselves,” he said.

Achievement Prep, which serves children in grades four through eight, is rated Tier 1 by the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The school is expanding this fall to serve children in elementary grades.

Last year, 86 percent of them were proficient in math, according to annual standardized tests, and 68 percent were proficient in reading. Citywide, fewer than half of students are proficient in those two subjects.

That success caught the attention of Chancellor Kaya Henderson, who is seeking to establish an unusual partnership with Achievement Prep, allowing it to move into Malcolm X Elementary in return for offering guaranteed admission to neighborhood students.

As a recipient of the Ryan Award, Wright will travel to Chicago to speak about her school’s success with Accelerate Institute principal fellows.

“That’s the part for me that is most exciting, sharing best practices so children everywhere can get a great education,” she said.