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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 School Recognition Program (CSRP), the California Distinguished Schools (DS) Program was on a three year pause while California transitioned to its new assessment and accountability system. From 2015–17 California recognized schools that demonstrated exemplary achievements with the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program. 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 California Department of Education (CDE) National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program web page.

Eligibility Criteria

In 2019 California recognized outstanding education programs and practices in middle and high schools. In 2019 California used a multiple measures accountability system to identify eligible schools based on their performance and progress on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard External link opens in new window or tab. (Dashboard). Information regarding the Dashboard is provided on the CDE California School Dashboard and System of Support web page. In 2019 eligible schools in both the middle school and high school cycles were selected within the following two categories:

Middle School Cycle
Category 1:  Exceptional Student Performance for 2 Consecutive School Years
  • The ALL student group Blue/Green on both ELA and Mathematics for the Fall 2017 and 2018 Dashboards.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • 95 percent participation rate in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years for both ELA and Mathematics.
Category 2:   Closing the Achievement Gap between 2 School Years
  • Poverty Rate of at least 40 percent in 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years.
  • Growth from any color to Green/Blue on ELA OR Mathematics from the Fall 2017 Dashboard and the 2018 Dashboard for the targeted students groups (AA, HI, SED, SWD and/or EL).
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on both ELA and Mathematics on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow on the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow on the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • 95 percent participation rate in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years on both ELA and Mathematics.
High School Cycle - Ninth through twelfth grade (9–12) grade span designation or any other high school designation is accepted.
Category 1: Exceptional Student Performance for 2 Consecutive School Years
  • The ALL student group in Blue/Green on both English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on the College/Career Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on the Graduation Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • 95 percent participation rate in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years on both ELA and Mathematics.
Category 2: Closing the Achievement Gap between 2 School Years
  • Poverty Rate of at least 40 percent in 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years.
  • Growth on ELA OR Mathematics in the 2017–18 school year for the targeted students groups (AA, HI, SED, SWD and/or EL).
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green on both ELA and Mathematics on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow on the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/ Green/Yellow on the College/Career Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student groups must be Blue/Green/Yellow on the Graduation Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • 95 percent participation rate in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years on both ELA and Mathematics.

Application

On January 24, 2019, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond provided County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and Middle and High School Principals in his 2019 California Distinguished Schools and Exemplary Districts Award Programs letter, information about the 2019 California Distinguished Schools Program. Eligible schools that would like to be recognized as a California DS Awardee for 2019 must have submitted a completed online 2019 California DS Program Middle and High Schools Application External link opens in new window or tab. by Monday, February 11, 2019, in order to be recognized as a California DS Awardee in 2019.

For more information regarding the California DS Program, please contact your California School Recognition Program County Coordinator.

California Exemplary Award

In addition, eligible schools were able to apply to be recognized as a California Exemplary Awardee for 2019. Schools applying for a California Exemplary Award must have met the eligibility criteria to apply for a California DS Awardee for 2019. Eligible schools that would like to be recognized as a California Exemplary Awardee for 2019 must have submitted a completed online 2019 California DS Program Middle and High Schools Application, with the completed California Exemplary Program section(s), by the application due date in order to be considered for a California Exemplary Award(s). Eligible schools were able to apply to be recognized as a California Exemplary Awardee in each of the following three programs:

Program 1: Arts Education
Program 2: Physical Activity and Nutrition Education
Program 3: Career Technical Education (Middle and High Schools)

For more information regarding the California Exemplary Awards, please contact your California School Recognition Program County Coordinator.

California Exemplary Districts Award

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) significantly changed how California provides resources to public schools and holds local educational agencies (LEAs) accountable for improving student performance. The LCFF, which the Legislature and Governor passed in 2013, includes eight priority areas that define a quality education more broadly than a single test score and requires that the accountability system consider all eight priorities.

COEs were encouraged to identify and select one district in their county as a California Exemplary Districts Awardee for 2019. Districts selected for a California Exemplary Districts Award for 2019 must have at least one school in their district that met the eligibility criteria to be a California DS Awardee for 2019 and the districts performance is based on one or both of the following two categories:

Category 1: Positive Culture and Climate

Positive School Culture and Climate with an emphasis on Student and Family Engagement (Priorities 1, 3, 5, and 6)

Category 2: Exceptional Strides in Student Achievement

Exceptional Strides in Student Achievement with an emphasis on the Implementation of State Academic Standards and/or Access to a Broad Course of Study (Priorities 2, 4, 7, and 8)

COEs that would like to recognize a district as a California Exemplary District Awardee for 2019 must have submitted a completed online 2019 California Exemplary Districts Nomination Form External link opens in new window or tab. by Monday, February 11, 2019, in order for the district to be recognized as a California Exemplary District Awardee in 2019.

For more information regarding the California Exemplary Districts Award, please contact your California School Recognition Program County Coordinator.

Timeline of Activities

Date Activity
January 24, 2019
California DS Program and California Exemplary Districts Award Announcement and Application/Nomination Release Date.
February 11, 2019
California DS Program and California Exemplary Districts Award Online Application/Nomination Due Date.
February 2019
California DS Program Application Review, Evaluate and Conduct California Exemplary Awards Site Visits, and California Exemplary Districts Award Nomination Review.
February 25, 2019
California DS Program, California Exemplary Awards Program, California Exemplary Districts Awardees Announcement.
February 25, 2019 CSRP Awards Ceremony registration open. Registration, and information about the Disneyland Resort and 2019 CSRP Awards Ceremony, is available on the CDE CSRP Awards Ceremonies 2019 web page.
April 5, 2019
CSRP Awards Ceremony, Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California.

Sponsors

We are thankful for our California School Recognition Program Sponsors who help to make the California Distinguished Schools 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 students, teachers, classified employees, schools, and districts 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.

Resources

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 Team | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 3, 2019
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition