Six of Glendale Unified’s 20 elementary schools recently received one of the highest honors offered by the state — they were named California Distinguished Schools.
Balboa, Horace Mann, Mark Keppel, Monte Vista, R.D. White and Valley View elementary schools were six of 323 primary schools statewide recognized last week by the California Department of Education and state Supt. Tony Thurmond.
“These outstanding schools don’t just educate students; they also provide the young people of California the tools they need to be successful after graduation,” Thurmond said in a statement.
The six were selected as part of the 2020 California Distinguished Schools program, which honors schools “for closing the achievement gap and for achieving exceptional student performance,” according to the state education department.
Closing the achievement gap and achieving exceptional student performance were measured partly on progress made by schools in areas such as test scores and suspension rates.
“Our dedicated teachers, classified staff and administrators work tirelessly, alongside our parents and community, to provide an exceptional education that empowers our youth to achieve their aspirational goals,” Glendale Unified Supt. Vivian Ekchian said in a statement.
“I am so proud to celebrate this wonderful recognition of their hard work with the entire Glendale Unified community,” she added.
The honors are presented on a biannual basis and alternate annually with middle and high school awards, meaning a designation is good for two years.
Some growth by Glendale schools has been exceptional, perhaps led by Mann Elementary.
The school, whose entire student population receives free lunches designated for low-income families, saw its most recent California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress test scores surge this past school year.
About 71.4% of Mann students have exceeded or met state testing standards in math, while the percentage jumped to 73.50% in English.
Those scores were 58.82% in math and 66.67% in English for the 2016-17 school year, while they were 42% and 51%, respectively, only five years ago.
Earlier this month, Mann principal Rosa Alonso credited her school’s success to its passionate instructors.
“It’s all the teachers — the work, the love, the care, the dedication they have for students,” Alonso said. “I can’t take credit for this, and I have no problem saying I have the best teachers in this district.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise Monte Vista is being recognized again after the elementary school was one of 362 nationwide to be honored as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education this year.
In the last five years, Monte Vista has seen its state test scores rise from 75% for the 2014-15 school year to 83.65% this past year in English, while math improved from 73% for the 2014-15 school year to 85.06% last year.
Valley View saw gains of 7% and 12% in math and English, respectively, over the last five years, while R.D. White jumped 10% in math and 11% in English in state test scores over the last five years.
Some schools stood out beyond testing.
Mark Keppel had no suspensions posted on the California School Dashboard, a statewide system of online accountability, for a second straight year, which means the school, with 1,056 students, has not recorded a single suspension in two years.
Balboa Elementary saw its rate of chronic absenteeism, a student missing 10% of classes or more per year, dip.
Two years ago, 10.2% of Balboa students qualified as “chronically absent” while the most recent annual figure came in at 7.7%. The school was moved from “yellow” or concerned status, to “green” in the California School Dashboard.