3 local schools named California Distinguished Schools for 2014

The San Luis Obispo County elementaries, included among 424 statewide, were recognized for innovation

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 30, 2014 

Atascadero officials, teachers and students cheer Thursday, Aug. 29, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the completion of the Monterey Road Elementary School modernization project.

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Three elementary school principals in San Luis Obispo County received word Wednesday that state education officials had named their campuses California Distinguished Schools for 2014.

Monterey Road Elementary in the Atascadero Unified district , and Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter and Teach Elementary, both in the San Luis Coastal Unified district, earned the distinguished schools title this year.

They were among 424 public elementary schools in California to receive recognition for their innovative approaches to improving students’ academic achievement, according to the California Department of Education.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release.

All three of the schools have received the honor before: Teach was named a distinguished school in 2010, Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter was recognized in 2008, and Monterey Road received the award in 2004.

“I was excited, thrilled,” said Brian L. Getz, who has ser ved as principal of Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter for 14 years. “It’s nice to be recognized in that way for our efforts as a school.”

The California Distinguished Schools Program recognizes schools for their academic excellence and progress in narrowing the achievement gap. The term refers to the disparity in academic achievements between the average student and those who are economically disadvantaged or whose native language is not English.

Schools must meet a variety of criteria to apply for the honor, including having an Academic Performance Index score of 833 or higher, said Cynthia Henninger, program coordinator for the Distinguished Schools Program. (The API reflects a school’s or student group’s academic performance based on state testing results on a scale of 200-1,000).

Teach Elementar y’s and Bellevue-Santa Fe Char ter’s scores — 990 and 929, respectively put them in the top 10 percent of all schools in the state.

Each school is unique: Teach only offers fourth through sixth grades for those seeking an “accelerated learning environment” with challenging curriculum. Bellevue-Santa Fe, meanwhile, focuses on project-based learning and personalizing education for each student based on his or her needs.

Schools also can earn recognition by showing that academic targets for groups of students — such as lower-income students — increased more than their peers.

Monterey Road Elementary improved its API score to 848 from 840 in the 2011-12 school year, and it saw strong growth in test scores by Hispanic or Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students (which increased to 766 and 788, respectively).

“Those are some ver y nice scores,” Henninger said. “They far exceeded what they needed to achieve.”

The schools will be honored in early June during regional award ceremonies.

Elementary and secondary schools are recognized in alternating years. The full list of distinguished schools is available at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/cs/.

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