Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program

A national program that recognizes schools that have successfully used their Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) federal funds to improve the education for all students.

Program Information

A component of the California Department of Education (CDE) California School Recognition Program (CSRP), the National Association of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) State Program Administrators (NAESPA)—formerly the National Title I Association—has been selecting examples of superior, federally funded school programs for national recognition through the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program (recently renamed from its predecessor, the National Title I Distinguished Schools Program) since 1996. The purpose of the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program is to highlight selected schools that have successfully used their ESEA federal funds to improve the education for all students-including economically disadvantaged students. These schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community.

Additional information about the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program can be found on the ESEA Network The National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program External link opens in new window or tab. website.

Eligibility Criteria

Schools are selected for the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Award by their State Education Agency (SEA). SEAs select one or two schools from their state for recognition as a National ESEA Distinguished School, using the eligibility criteria established by the NAESPA and the SEA.

In order for a school to qualify for the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Award, the NAESPA eligibility criteria requires that schools must have:

  • A poverty rate of at least 35 percent for the selected year.
  • Demonstrated high academic achievement for two or more consecutive years.
  • Met or exceeded state-determined accountability criteria based on two or more consecutive years of achievement data.

Each year, California may select one school each, in two of the following three categories:

  • Category 1: Exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 2: Closing the achievement gap between student groups for two or more consecutive years.
  • Category 3: Excellence in serving special populations of students (e.g. homeless, migrant, English learners, etc.).

In addition, the California eligibility criteria requires schools must have been recognized as a California Distinguished School for the selected year. 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); as a result, California will not be participating in the 2022 National ESEA Distinguished School Program. Information regarding the Dashboard is provided on the CDE California Accountability Model and School Dashboard web page.

Application

There is no application for the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program. Once the SEA has selected the school(s) for the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Award, the SEA contacts the school(s) principal and the NAESPA to notify them of the recognition. The NAESPA then contacts the school(s) with details about the National ESEA Distinguished Schools Program and participation details for all of the National ESEA Distinguished Schools activities.

Note: The CSRP uses the CDE California School Directory (CDS) for county, district, and school information for awardee lists and for notifications of award recognitions. You are encouraged to review your entity’s information and submit all updates/corrections through your local educational agency (LEA) CDS coordinator. Updates can be submitted directly to the LEA CDS Coordinator by clicking the Request Data Update(s) link in your CDS Coordinator field on the California School Directory web page for that entity. All county, district, and school names are shown at the time of the award.

Timeline of Activities

Date Activity
To Be Determined
California's 2023 National ESEA Distinguished Schools Awardees notification.

Sponsors

We are thankful for our California School Recognition Program Sponsors who help to make the National ESEA 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.

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.

National Distinguished Schools Awardees
California's National ESEA and Title I Distinguished Schools Awardees by year.

Questions: Awards Unit | awards@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0842 
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 30, 2022