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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.

Note: The 2018 California Distinguished Schools, Exemplary, and Exemplary Districts Awards application cycle has passed. The Eligibility Criteria, Application, California Exemplary Award, California Exemplary Districts Program, and Timeline of Activities sections are for reference.

Eligibility Criteria

In 2018 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 (Dashboard). Information regarding the Dashboard is provided on the California Department of Education (CDE) California Accountability Model and School Dashboard Web page. In 2018 California recognized outstanding education programs and practices in elementary schools. Kindergarten thru eighth grade (K–8) grade span designation was accepted. Eligible schools were selected within the following three categories:

Category 1: Outstanding Student Performance
  • Includes performance levels of all students on the English Learner Progress, Suspension Rate, and Academic Indicators for the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years.
  • Participation rate of at least 95 percent (rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent).
Category 2: Outstanding Student Performance with High Poverty Rate
  • Includes performance levels of all students and targeted student groups that received a performance level on the English Learner Progress, Suspension Rate, and Academic Indicators for the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years.
  • Poverty rate of at least 40 percent (rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent).
  • Participation rate of at least 95 percent (rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent).
  • Includes status and change on all state indicators.
Category 3: Outstanding Improvement and Equity Across Student Groups
  • Includes performance levels of all students and targeted student groups that received a performance level on the English Learner Progress, Suspension Rate, and Academic Indicators for the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years.
  • Highest percentage of growth of targeted student groups in English Language Arts or Mathematics for the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years.
  • Poverty Rate of at least 40 percent (rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent).
  • Participation rate of at least 95 percent (rounded to the nearest 0.1 percent).
  • Includes status and change on all state indicators.

Application

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson notified eligible schools on February 7, 2018, in his 2018 California Distinguished Schools and Exemplary Districts Award Programs letter containing information and instructions on how to apply for the California DS Award. Eligible schools were required to submit a completed 2018 California DS Program Online Application by midnight, Monday, March 12, 2018, in order to be recognized as a California DS Awardee in 2018. Elementary schools that are being recognized as a California DS Awardee for 2018 can be found on the CDE California Distinguished Schools Awardees 2018 Web page. Additional information can be found on the April 2, 2018, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2018 California Distinguished Schools News Release #18-24.

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

California Exemplary Award

In addition, schools could apply to be recognized for a California Exemplary Award. Schools applying for a California Exemplary Award must have meet the eligibility criteria to be a California DS to be recognized for a California Exemplary Award. Schools applying to be recognized for a California Exemplary Award were required to submit a completed California DS application, with the completed California Exemplary Program section, by the application due date in order to be considered for a California Exemplary Award. Elementary Schools that are being recognized as a California Exemplary Award in 2018 will be found on the CDE California Exemplary Awardees Web page. Additional information can be found on the April 27, 2018, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces Arts Education and Physical Activity and Nutrition Exemplary Awards News Release #18-34.

California Exemplary Awards are given in the following three categories:

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

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

California Exemplary Districts Program

Program Information

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. Districts that are being recognized as a California Exemplary District Awardee for 2018 can be found on the CDE California Exemplary Districts Awardees 2018 Web page. Additional information can be found on the April 2, 2018, State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2018 California Distinguished Schools News Release #18-24.

Eligibility Criteria

COEs were encouraged to select only one district in their county as a California Exemplary Districts Awardee for 2018. Districts selected for a California Exemplary Districts Award must have at least one school in their district that meets the eligibility criteria to be a California DS Awardee for 2018 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)

Application

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson notified COEs on February 7, 2018, with instructions on how to select a district in their county for a California Exemplary Districts Award and information on how to complete and submit the California Exemplary Districts Program Application. COEs worked directly with their selected California Exemplary Districts Awardee and forwarded their selected district's completed California Exemplary Districts Program Application by midnight, Monday, March 12, 2018, to the CDE Awards Team by e-mail at awards@cde.ca.gov, in order for their selected district to be recognized as a California Exemplary Districts Awardee in 2018.

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

Timeline of Activities

Date Activity
February 7, 2018
California DS Program Announcement and Application Release Date.
March 12, 2018
California DS Program Online Application Due Date.
March 2018
California DS Program Application Review, Evaluation, and Conduct Exemplary Program Site Visits.
March 2018
California DS and Exemplary Programs Awardee Announcement.
May 3, 2018
California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremony, Disneyland Hotel, 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 the willingness in which they 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 Ceremony
Photographs and video information about the California School Recognition Program Ceremony.

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 (CSRP) merchandise for CSRP Awardees.

California Distinguished Schools Logo
California Distinguished Schools (DS) downloadable logo for use by California DS Awardees.

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

Questions: Awards Team | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 10, 2018