In California, there currently exists an “achievement gap” among student subgroups that threatens their future and the future of California. Access to high-quality educational experiences should be the right of every student in California and it is the responsibility of the schools, districts, county offices of education, and the California Department of Education (CDE) to work together toward that end. The CDE has made closing the achievement gap a top priority and strongly believes that making schools work for all students, regardless of their background, condition, or circumstances, is an imperative for a strong education system and a strong California.
The 2014 Program directly focuses on California’s students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The California Distinguished School Award identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.
In order to be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Academic Performance Index (API) requirements.
Elementary and secondary (middle and high) schools are recognized during alternate years. For the 2014 cycle, eligible elementary schools are invited to participate. The criteria for school selection are based on the submission of an application, including a comprehensive description of two of the school’s successful signature practices, and a successful application review.
For 2014, the CDE is implementing two exemplary program awards: one in the Visual and Performing Arts and one focusing on Health, Nutrition, and Physical Fitness. Applying for these additional exemplary awards is optional, and only open to schools applying for the 2014 Distinguished School program.
Applications are reviewed for completeness by teams of educators from across the state under the direction of the CDE. Applications deemed complete will move forward in the process. Each school receives a site visit by a team of educators to validate the full implementation of the submitted practices. The site visits are conducted as a collaborative effort between the CDE and county superintendents of schools.
Schools selected for recognition are honored as Distinguished Schools at regional award ceremonies where the State Superintendent of Public Instruction presents each school with a 2014 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The events and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.