COUNTYWIDE : 5 Schools Ranked Among State's Best

Five Ventura County schools, named among the best in the state, will be honored at a ceremony in San Francisco on April 22.

The local schools are among 104 statewide that have been named finalists in the California Distinguished Schools Program, an honor given annually to middle and high schools for sustained academic excellence or improvement compared to schools of similar demographic background.

The five Ventura County finalists are Balboa Middle School in Ventura, Chaparral Middle School in Moorpark, Blackstock Junior High School in Oxnard, Medea Creek Middle School in Oak Park and Camarillo High School.

At Balboa, Principal Henry Robertson said the improvements started with the efforts in 1987 of Assistant Supt. Joseph Spirito of the Ventura Unified School District to strengthen curricula districtwide.

Using results of the California Assessment Program standardized test, officials were able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of Balboa's curriculum and to refine teaching methods to improve it. CAP reading scores showed steady improvement after teaching methods were changed, Robertson said.

"It was a conscious effort in which much of the credit must go to the staff," Robertson said. "It's a great tribute to them, the students and the people in the community."

The students at Chaparral Middle School made their gains in science and improved significantly in reading, written expression and math, Principal Lucretia Peebles said. "The staff worked hard to provide the students with the experience necessary to perform well on the tests," she said.

Launched in 1984, the distinguished schools program was put on a one-year hiatus last year because of state budget cuts but resumed this year. Elementary and secondary schools are honored in alternate years.

"Any time a school can get recognition at the state level, it's a wonderful thing," said Richard Morrison, coordinator of pupil administration services in the county superintendent of schools office. "It generates a lot of excitement among the students, teachers and in the community."

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