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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 2020 California will recognize outstanding education programs and practices in elementary schools. In 2020 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 CDE California School Dashboard and System of Support web page. Kindergarten thru eighth grade (K–8) grade span designation will be accepted. In 2020 eligible schools in the elementary school cycle will be selected within the following two categories:

Category 1:  Closing the Achievement Gap
  • Poverty Rate of at least 40 percent in the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years.
  • Highest percent of growth that met standard in ELA OR Mathematics between the 2016–17 and 2017–18 school years for the targeted student groups (AA, Homeless, Foster Youth, 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 for both ELA and Mathematics.
Category 2:  Exceptional Student Performance
  • The ALL student group must be Blue in both ELA and Mathematics on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue on the Suspension Rate Indicator on the 2018 Dashboard.
  • The ALL student group must be Blue 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.

Application

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond will provide a letter to County and District Superintendents, Charter School Administrators, and Elementary School Principals containing information about the 2020 California DS Program. Eligible schools that would like to be recognized as a California DS Awardee for 2020 will be required to submit a completed 2020 California DS Program Elementary Schools Application by the due date in order to be recognized as a California DS Awardee for 2020.

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

California Exemplary Awards

The California DS Program Application allowed schools that were eligible to apply to be recognized as a California DS to also apply to be recognized as a California Exemplary Awardee in the following three programs:

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

In 2020, the California Exemplary Arts Education (EAE) Award has its own eligibility criteria and application process. Information regarding the California EAE Award, including the eligibility criteria and application process, can be found on the CDE California EAE Award web page.

For more information regarding the California EAE Award, please contact the California Exemplary Arts Awards Team by email or by phone at 916-319-0504.

At this time the CDE is not administering the California Exemplary Physical Activity and Nutrition Education and Career Technical Education (Middle and High Schools) Awards.

California Exemplary Districts Award

The California DS Program allowed County Offices of Education to identify and select one district in their county that was eligible to be recognized as a California Exemplary Districts Awardee.

At this time the CDE is not administering the California Exemplary Districts Award.

Timeline of Activities

Date Activity
October 2019
California DS Program Award Announcement and Application/Nomination Release Date.
November 2019
California DS Program Application Due Date.
November 2019
California DS Program Application Review.
December 6, 2019
California DS Program Awardees Announcement.
December 6, 2019 CSRP Awards Ceremony registration open. Registration, and information about the 2020 CSRP Awards Ceremony, will be available on the CDE CSRP Awards Ceremonies 2020 web page.
February 10, 2020
Save the Date. CSRP 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 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, October 18, 2019
Recently Posted in Awards and Recognition