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.
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