In order to apply to become a Distinguished School, schools needed to have obtained improved student academic achievement, as measured by students’ performance on state tests. Educators at the school then completed a lengthy written application in which they were asked to provide narrative-style answers to questions about topics like the school environment and culture; professional development for teachers; and how the school assists students in meeting grade-level standards.
Each school is also visited by outside educators in order to confirm the information in the written application.
Reaching the Distinguished Schools level means that the schools have met one prerequisite for being named a national Blue Ribbon school.
Distinguished Schools are the “best of the best” in the state, State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said in a statement.
La Crescenta, Muir and R.D. White had each been named distinguished schools once before, but the award was a first for Dunsmore.
“It’s a huge honor for us,” Dunsmore Principal Mary LaMasa said.
O’Connell called the winning principals to offer his congratulations earlier in the week.
“It was the best call I’ve ever had in my entire life,” LaMasa said.
The awards are given in alternate years to elementary schools and secondary schools.
Last year, Rosemont Middle School was recognized at the secondary level.
Principals and district administrators said they were delighted with the schools’ achievements.
“We’re incredibly proud,” Supt. Michael Escalante said.
Educators credited an array of school stakeholders for bringing the schools to this point.
“It takes a school staff and a school community — teachers, administrators, classified, students, and of course the parents,” said Alice Petrossian, assistant superintendent for elementary education.
Principals at the award-winning schools said their campuses benefited from the school district’s participation in the Focus on Results program, an initiative that has schools focus on one instructional area.
“It’s really helped us all look at reading comprehension,” Bishop said about the program.
R.D. White was named a Distinguished School in 2002 and became a national Blue Ribbon School the following year, Principal Suzanne Risse said.
“I hope we do the same this time,” she said.
A few educators from each school will be formally honored at an awards ceremony in Anaheim in mid-May.
Each school also intends to hold a school-wide celebration later in the spring.
ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.