By Mary O’KEEFE
Three elementary schools within the Glendale Unified School District have been notified they have been recognized as California Distinguished schools.
Monte Vista, Mountain Avenue and Balboa elementary schools received word of their award at the end of March.
The California Department of Education has set a standard criteria for the award that includes a high Academic Performance Index Growth score. Mountain Avenue’s 2011 API score was 949, Monte Vista score was 939 and Balboa’s was 813. But for a school to be Distinguished it is about more than numbers. The community, teachers, students, parents and staff must all work together to support their school.
Schools are invited to apply for the award. The application is an in-depth look at what the school’s strengths are, their goals and how they plan to achieve those goals.
For Mountain Avenue, the focus was on student engagement and reading comprehension.
“We were very specific by what we meant by student engagement,” said Mountain Avenue Principal Rebeca Witt.
The staff had visited other schools and received special training with Kagan Professional Development. The program specializes in research-based training for teachers and staff in areas like active engagement and cooperative learning. In addition Mountain Avenue emphasized their reading comprehension program.
Monte Vista also highlighted their Focus on Results through reading comprehension and technology.
“We engage students [by] using white boards, LCD projectors and every teacher has a laptop [computer],” said Monte Vista Principal Susan Hoge.
After the application was accepted, then a group of educators toured the school sites to validate the application.
“We had a Spirit Day that they attended,” Hoge said of a portion of the tour. “I then met with the leadership team and they went to the classrooms for [most of the time].”
Hoge said the educators spoke with teachers, staff and students from each grade.
“Then after lunch we met with parent representatives and they asked more questions,” she said. “And they met with classified staff.”
The meetings were similar at Mountain Avenue with those that toured the school meeting with PTA and foundation representatives.
Both Hoge and Witt said they were notified of the award in the evening of March 23. Their students were all excited the following day when they were told of the awards.