Jefferson, Discovery schools earn high praise
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Apr 23, 2013 | 4035 views | 3 3 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The prestigious California Distinguished School Award was recently bestowed upon two Tracy middle schools — Jefferson School and Discovery Charter.

The California Department of Education award honors elementary and secondary schools that demonstrate educational excellence while narrowing the achievement gap for student subgroups, including English learners and those in special education.

News of the awards created jubilation among officials at both districts.

“That is an exciting thing,” said Dana Eaton, superintendent of the Jefferson School District.

“As superintendent, I’m proud of all of our schools, but it’s great to see Jefferson continue to get recognized for the great work they do,” he said. “They really, really deserve it.”

Jefferson also received the award in 1989 and 2009.

“Most are lucky to win it once, but to win it a couple of different times is very nice,” said James Bridges, principal of Jefferson School. “I think it validates all of the hard work our students and teachers put in everyday.”

Virginia Stewart, executive director of the Tracy Learning Center, said administrators at Discovery Charter were excited to be selected because the nomination process is by invitation only.

“This is our first time. We applied before, but this is the first time we got it,” she said. “The thing I think it does, it says we’re doing something right — test scores and the way we’re teaching the kids, it makes us noteworthy.”

Once school officials received an invitation to apply, the next step was to complete an application so it included two successful practices.

In the case of Jefferson, it was the student leadership program and the implementation of a two-period math block for all sixth-graders.

Bridges said that by providing a blocked period of math, officials saw an 8 percent improvement in the student’s overall 2012 STAR test scores.

He said there was also a 27 percent gain for economically disadvantaged students; a 31 percent gain for English-learners; a 22 percent gain for students with disabilities; and a 29 percent gain for Latino students.

The success of the sixth-grade math program, he said, has prompted school officials to expand it to all grades next year.

Discovery highlighted the individual attention and other support services given to students so they can achieve success, Stewart said.

When a team of educators visited Discovery to validate the submitted practices, Stewart said officials told her, “Nobody could fake what we saw in a visit.”

“They kept commenting on how respectful the school was,” she said.

On May 10, officials at both school districts will receive a plaque and American Flag during the annual awards luncheon at the Double Tree by Hilton in Sacramento.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 24, 2013
The "gangs" at Tracy High are little to none. I agree it is the parents not the school.
April 24, 2013
Blame the parents for "gangbanger staus" not the school. My kid graduated from tracy high, is 19 years old, has a great job and is buying his first house.
April 24, 2013
It's not fair that kids who go to Jefferson get zoned into low-performing Tracy High.

I've seen plenty of decent middle class Jefferson students move onto full on gangbanger by the time they are done at Tracy High.

Considering the high test scores,socio-economic backround of the students, and commute distance to school, it would be more appropriate to zone Jefferson to Kimball High.

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at