Third F.V. school nominated for state award

Courreges Elementary School was recently added to the list of Fountain Valley School District elementary schools nominated for a California Distinguished School honor.

The announcement of the nominations of Newland and Gisler elementary schools was made in November. The statewide honor will be presented to qualified nominees in late spring.

"It goes without saying how proud we are about our performance," district Supt. Marc Ecker said, adding that the nominations speak to the success of the staff and students.

According to the California Department of Education website, the award "identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap."

Courreges Principal Chris Christensen said the award goes to schools that "make great gains." The nomination process looks at growth in academic performance index scores and growth in subgroups such as special education students and English learners.

Christensen, who said the nomination is given to the top 5% of schools, called the honor "exciting" for him and his staff.

Newland principal Christopher Mullin said in a news release that his school "is truly humbled and honored to be nominated for the prestigious California Distinguished Schools award."

Newland last won the award in 2008; Oka Elementary received the designation in 2010.

Gisler Principal Erin Bains said in a news release that the nomination is an honor and he welcomes "the opportunity to share the hard work put in daily by our teachers, students and families at Gisler Elementary."

Now nominated, the schools are waiting approval of an application that had to highlight two of their signature practices. Approved schools then undergo a site visit from a team from the county and state departments of education.

The Courreges application featured the school's technology plan and how teachers use tablets and computers in the classroom.

Also, it highlighted the differentiated instruction model, which breaks large classrooms into smaller groups of students based on ability. Teachers and parent volunteers then monitor the groups in their academic activities to provide more focused help.

With the applications submitted, Ecker didn't seem concerned about the final step in the process.

"We're pretty confident that once the team sees the schools, they will get their awards," Ecker said.

While the designation is based on growth in student scores, Ecker said it "is really more about recognizing the effectiveness of the staff."

He credits the teachers and staff, their leadership and their collaboration with parents.

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