As schools nationwide struggle with shrinking budgets and injecting academic rigor into curriculums, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson last week announced that 387 exemplary public schools were named 2012 Distinguished schools for their innovative education programs that both encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.

Six of the awardees this year are local schools from the Compton, Inglewood, Hawthorne and Los Angeles unified school districts.

This year, the state is recognizing elementary schools, and next year middle and high schools will be awarded.

Among the criteria elementary schools must meet in order to apply for the distinguished school honor are: Having a schoolwide 2011 growth Academic Performance Index (API) greater than or equal to 832; that growth API must meet or exceed the school’s growth target; and all numerically significant subgroups (African American, low income, handicapped, etc.) must make their growth targets as well.

Additionally, schools must also meet specific Closing the Achievement Gap criteria based on the school’s student population.

Once the schools have met all the criteria, they can apply for the recognition. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school’s signature practices and a county office of education-led site validation review.
Schools must also agree to share their signature practices with others schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate the work.

The local schools that have been honored as California Distinguished Schools are Laurel Street Elementary in Compton; Washington Street Elementary in Hawthorne; William Kelso Elementary in Inglewood; and Canfield, Denker and Van Ness avenue elementaries in Los Angeles.