School captures state's top honor

BURBANK — State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell stopped by Luther Burbank Middle School Monday to deliver some good news: It was named a California Distinguished School for 2007.

"In order to be a California Distinguished School you really have to be the best of the best," O'Connell said. "You really have to exceed our expectations in the Academic Performance Index."

It is the third time Luther Burbank received the award, the first two times in 1994 and 1985.

In order to gain distinguished school status, a school must continually exhibit exemplary standardized test scores and undergo a rigorous evaluation process of it's curriculum, instructional programs, student support and general climate, O'Connell said.

"You should be really proud," he said.

District administrators, officials, school teachers and staff members gathered to hear O'Connell's announcement in the library during their lunch.

The teachers at Luther Burbank were recognized for their commitment to the students as well.

"This is a truly dedicated staff," Principal Anita Schackman said. "The honor goes to these people here."

Schackman also spoke about the testing progress of students in the subgroup categories, which include English learners, minorities and economically disadvantaged students at the school.

The school earned an Academic Performance Index score of 755 on a scale of 200 to 1,000 in 2006, up from 727 in 2005 with all subgroup categories greatly exceeding their target scores for 2006.

Given Luther Burbank's sometimes less than favorable reputation in past years, Schackman was happy to see the school receive some positive recognition, she said.

"With the distinguished school award it's just another point to say, 'Yes, there are nice things here,'" she said.

Although distinguished school status is a coveted award in any district, there is no fiscal gain involved for the school, O'Connell said.

"With it comes absolutely not one nickel," he said, and thanked the staff in attendance for their continued service.

It is, however, the precursor to the nation's highest honor a school can earn — the National Blue Ribbon Award. Luther Burbank is now eligible to apply for that honor next year. It is, however, an extensive application process.

"It's just kind of like the next step," Schackman said of the National Blue Ribbon Award.

"It can be the next step for a distinguished school."

Although she is interested in the award, Schackman has filed no applications and has not received any information about the criteria for it, she said.

All representatives from the 171 middle and high schools honored as a California Distinguished School this year are scheduled to attend an awards dinner on May 18 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

  • RACHEL KANE covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3205 or by e-mail at
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