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Four Redwood City area elementary schools earn state 'Distinguished School' award

Program honored over 350 schools statewide and is based on student performance data
Students walk around campus on the second day of school at Palo Alto High School on Aug. 11, 2022

Four Redwood City area elementary schools were honored as 2023 California Distinguished Schools, a state-run award program based on student performance data.

The Redwood City School District’s North Star Academy and the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District’s Central, Fox and Redwood Shores elementary schools were among 356 schools selected statewide. The program honors elementary schools in alternating years with middle and high schools, such that schools hold the title for two years.

The award program returned this year after a one-year pandemic-induced hiatus, according to the California Department of Education. Distinguished schools were last named in 2021. 

This year's awardees were chosen based on 2022 California School Dashboard data, which includes math and English standardized test scores, suspension rates, chronic absenteeism rates and demographic information.

"It is my pleasure to honor and recognize these 356 elementary schools for providing outstanding public education and opportunities to students," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a press release. "Their innovation and hard work have helped to ensure their students can heal, recover, and thrive—even in the toughest times.”

Schools can be recognized in one of two categories, either based on high student performance or success in closing the achievement gap, which refers to disparities in achievement among student groups.

All four local schools were recognized for student performance, rather than closing the achievement gap, according to a spreadsheet the California Department of Education released to this news organization. In fact, of the 29 San Mateo County schools that were named distinguished schools, all were honored for high student achievement and only one for closing the achievement gap.

The 2022 California School Dashboard assigns schools one of five "status levels," ranging from "very low" to "very high," on various metrics.

To be recognized as a California Distinguished School in the high student performance category, a school had to meet four criteria: "high" or "very high" English Language Arts test scores; "high" or "very high" math scores; "medium," "low" or "very low" chronic absenteeism; and "low" or "very low" suspensions, California Department of Education spokesperson Scott Roark told this news organization.

To be recognized in the achievement gap category, at least 40% of a school's students had to be considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the school had to meet five criteria: "medium," "high" or "very high" English Language Arts test scores; "medium," "high" or "very high" math scores; "medium," "low" or "very low" chronic absenteeism; "medium," "low" or "very low" suspensions; and "medium," "high" or "very high" math or English test scores for at least one group among African American students, Hispanic students, English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, homeless students and foster students, Roark said.

A full list of schools that earned the award can be found on the California Department of Education website.

Redwood City Pulse reporter Leah Worthington contributed to this report.


About the Author: Zoe Morgan

Zoe covers education, youth and families for the Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Weekly /, with a focus on using data to tell compelling stories. A Mountain View native, she has previous experience reporting in California and Oregon.
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