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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 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 California Department of Education (CDE) National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program web page.

Eligibility Criteria

In 2021 California is recognizing outstanding education programs and practices in middle and high schools. California is using 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 California Department of Education (CDE) California School Dashboard and System of Support web page. In 2021 eligible schools in the middle and high school cycle were selected within the following two categories:

Category 1:  Closing the Achievement Gap

Middle School Criteria

  • At least 40 percent of the student population is Socioeconomically Disadvantaged on both the 2018 and 2019 Dashboards.
  • Highest percent of growth that met standard in English Language Arts OR Mathematics on the 2019 Dashboard for any of the targeted student groups (African American, Hispanic, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged, Students with Disabilities, Foster Youth, Homeless, and/or English Learners)
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for both the English Language Arts and Mathematics Indicators on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow for the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow for the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • At least 95 percent participation rate in both the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years for both English Language Arts and Mathematics.

High School Criteria (Includes K–12, 9–12 designation, or any other high school designation.)

  • All of the Middle School Criteria (Except the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator)
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow for the College/Career Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green/Yellow for the Graduation Rate Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
Category 2:  Exceptional Student Performance

Middle School Criteria

  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for both the English Language Arts and Mathematics Indicators on both the 2018 and 2019 Dashboards.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • At least 95 percent participation rate in both the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years for both English Language Arts and Mathematics.

High School Criteria (Includes K–12, 9–12 designation, or any other high school designation.)

  • All of the Middle School Criteria (Except the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator)
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for the College/Career Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue/Green for the Graduation Rate Indicator on the 2019 Dashboard.

Application

The CDE is actively working to ensure that it can provide the 2021 California DS Program during the challenges that have been created by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation. With that in consideration, in 2021 schools that meet the eligibility criteria to be recognized as a 2021 California DS Awardee are not required to submit an application. Schools that meet the eligibility criteria are a 2021 California DS Awardee.

On March 18 and April 27, 2021, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond provided a letter to select County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and Middle and High School Principals containing information about the 2021 California Distinguished Schools Program.

Middle and high schools that are being recognized as a California DS Awardee for 2021 can be found on the CDE California DS Awardees 2021 web page.

Note: The California DS Program uses the CDE California School Directory for county, district, and schools names on the awardees list and award recognitions.

Timeline

Date Event
March 18, 2021 2021 California DS Awardee announcement.
April 27, 2021 2021 California DS Awardee additional announcement.
May 26, 2021
4 to 5 p.m.

2021 California School Recognition Program Virtual Awards Ceremony.

Sponsors

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.

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: Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition