Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

CTE Distinguished Schools Program Summary

Information about the Career Technical Education (CTE) Distinguished Schools Recognition Program and the roles of the CDE.


The purpose of the career technical education (CTE) Distinguished Schools Recognition Program is to highlight the outstanding overall CTE programs operating in California’s high schools. In cooperation with the California Department of Education’s School Recognition Program, the Career Technical Education Leadership Office (CTELO) coordinates the application process, review and assessment, scoring, validation and awarding of the distinguished CTE programs. Every other year, the Improvement and Accountability Division (IAD) and the Career and College Transition Divisions (CCTD) partner to identify the outstanding CTE schools. For a high school to be eligible to apply as an outstanding CTE program, they must first qualify as a regular distinguished school under the terms and conditions set forth by the IAD. If the high school obtains the recognition, only then can the honor of CTE distinguished program be awarded. The process is a two-step application, one for regular distinguished school and one for CTE. Applications are reviewed and scored, and those obtaining the highest scores as measured against a scoring rubric, are selected for a site validation visit. Upon a successful visit, the school is recommended to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who awards this prestigious award.


The CTE Distinguished Schools Recognition Program takes place every other year in conjunction with the California Department of Education’s School Recognition Program. Outstanding CTE programs are selected from among the recipients of regular distinguished high school applicants. The honor identifies high schools that infuse CTE courses that lead to success for all students at the school, addressing elements contained in a six-part evaluation rubric.


Successful recipients of the CTE Distinguished School honor obtain recognition by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction at the California School Recognition Program Ceremony held in Anaheim, California. The honor results in a four-year recognition. Schools selected are held as model CTE programs that can be replicated by other secondary school programs. 


The CTELO coordinates the program in conjunction with the CCTD and the IAD. The CCTD covers the cost of the CTE component for staff time to administer the program through the federal Carl D. Perkins grant.

Students Served

Every other year, outstanding CTE programs are recognized through the Distinguished Schools program. Since its origin in 2003, 24 outstanding CTE programs have been identified and held as models for the public secondary school system to emulate. Several thousand students at these honored schools have been served as well as other students who are in schools modeling the programs and practices.

Contact Information

The Career Technical Education Distinguished Schools Recognition Program is administered by:

California Department of Education
Career and College Transition Division
Career Technical Education Leadership Office
1430 N Street, Suite 4202
Sacramento, CA 95814

Michelle McIntosh, Education Administrator I

Questions: Clay Mitchell | | 916-322-5050 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 17, 2018