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California Distinguished Schools Program

Honors some of California's most exemplary and inspiring public schools. Schools selected for the Distinguished School Award demonstrate significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap.

Program Information

A component of the California Department of Education (CDE) California School Recognition Program (CSRP), the California Distinguished Schools (DS) Program was established by the CDE in 1985 and recognizes schools that demonstrate exemplary achievements. The California DS Program recognizes elementary and middle and high schools in alternate years and allows eligible schools to apply for the California DS Award once every two years. Schools recognized as a California DS Awardee hold the DS Title for two years.

In addition, each year two of California's DS Awardees are eligible to become a National ESEA Distinguished Schools Awardee. Information about California's National ESEA Distinguished Schools can be found on the CDE National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program web page.

In 2022, the California Pivotal Practice (CAPP) Program is being utilized by California in place of the California DS Program. Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, state law has suspended the reporting of state and local indicators on the 2020 and 2021 California School Dashboard (Dashboard). Information regarding the Dashboard is provided on the CDE California Accountability Model and School Dashboard web page. Information about the CAPP Program can be found on the CDE CAPP Program web page.

Note: The CSRP uses the CDE California School Directory for county, district, and school names on awardee lists and award recognitions.


Date Event
To Be Determined 2023 California DS announcement.


We are thankful for our California School Recognition Program Sponsors who help to make the California DS Program a success! The CSRP would not be successful without the generous support they provide. We appreciate their willingness to support our efforts to recognize California's exemplary schools, teachers, and classified school employees, for achievement and for advancing excellence in education.

A sponsorship in the CSRP is a commitment to an ongoing partnership with public education by helping ensure that the dream of a world-class public education lives on in California.


California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremonies
Information about the California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremonies.

California School Recognition Program County Coordinators
Contact information for California School Recognition Program county office of education coordinators.

California School Recognition Program Merchandise
Information about California School Recognition Program merchandise.

California Distinguished Schools Logo
California Distinguished Schools downloadable logo.

California Distinguished Schools Awardees
California Distinguished Schools Awardees by year.

California Exemplary Program Awardees
California Exemplary Program Awardees by year.

California Exemplary Districts Awardees
California Exemplary District Awardees by year.

Model Programs and Practices
Model Programs and Practices of the California Distinguished Schools and Exemplary Districts Awardees.

Questions: Awards Unit | | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Monday, January 24, 2022