Local News

Tuesday, Apr 12 2011 05:54 PM

Five Kern schools get state's top award

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Five Kern County campuses were named Tuesday as California Distinguished Schools -- the state's top prize for public schools.

Only 97 California public middle and high schools were selected as 2011 California Distinguished Schools. Kern's campuses are:

* Cesar E. Chavez High (Delano Joint Union High School District)

* Delano High (Delano Joint Union High School District)

* Centennial High (Kern High School District)

* Rosedale Middle (Rosedale Union School District)

* Burroughs High School (Sierra Sands Unified School District)

"Becoming a Distinguished School is a direct reflection of the dedication, hard work and vision of each school's education community," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a statement. "They have succeeded despite a bleak economic environment and have endeavored to maintain their momentum and focus."

Schools are chosen based on high standardized test scores and for reaching benchmarks set by the California Department of Education. The state also asks applicants to highlight school programs that are narrowing the achievement gap between higher-performing and lower-performing students at the school. Judges also visit the campuses.

The award comes with no prize money, but schools regularly fly a "California Distinguished School" flag or display a mural in front of their campus, and print the title on letterheads. Realtors are quick to point out the distinction, too.

Also Tuesday afternoon, the education department announced five schools that earned the Exemplary Career Technical Education Program award -- Ridgecrest's Burroughs High was one of them.

Kern County, with the first set of awards, tipped the 100 mark -- Kern schools have been named Distinguished Schools 102 times since the program's start in 1986.

It's the first time the Delano high schools and Centennial High have won the award, state records show. Burroughs High won the award once before, in 2005. Rosedale Middle is now a three-time winner, having won also in 1994 and 2001.

For Delano schools be named for the first time in a list of the state's top schools is "quite an accomplishment for our district," said Rosalina Rivera Delano Joint Union superintendent.

School leaders were quick to pass the credit for the award to all campus stakeholders: administrators, teachers, trustees, support staff, parents and especially students.

"They really have dedicated themselves to their studies and have risen to the academic challenges," a joyful Rivera said. "Together we achieve the extraordinary."

Delano High last year rose an incredible 61 points on the academic performance index, a state score combining test scores and other measurements. Chavez High ranks second in API -- 818 -- among all Kern high schools.

In its award application, Delano campuses highlighted two programs called Signature Practices. One helps struggling students pass the California High School Exit Exam. The other helps close the achievement gap among students.

In Rosedale, the campus highlighted its "professional learning communities" and "response to intervention" programs, which use teamwork and research to teach students.

"It's all because of hard work," said Rosedale Superintendent John Mendiburu. "It's a good indication of what all educators are doing."

School representatives will travel to Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on May 20 for an awards ceremony, sponsored by corporations and education groups. This year is the 25th anniversary of the program.

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