The California Schools created the California Schools Recognition Program in 1985. Its purpose is to publicize and reinforce California schools priorities, which are to improve student scholastic achievement and promote students based upon measurable objectives. The program identifies and honors public schools that exhibit exemplary and inspiring achievement. Though participation in the program is voluntary, the California Distinguished School Award is highly coveted.
To be considered for the award, California schools must meet a variety of eligibility requirements. These include designated federal and state accountability measures that are based upon the No Child Left Behind, Adequate Yearly Progress, and Academic Performance Index measurement programs. Approximately, five percent of California schools are selected each year for the award, with no few than 40 countries typically being represented.
The program alternates awards yearly between the elementary and secondary California schools. Year 2006 honors elementary schools.
California schools that meet the requirements complete an application and submit it to a team of local educators from across the state, which evaluate and score the merits of each school application. Schools with the highest scoring applications are selected as statewide nominees for the award. Nominated California schools then receive an on site visit by a team of county school superintendents and members of the California Department of Education, who validate the accuracy of the application data.
Those California schools selected for the Distinguished School Award are honored at a statewide ceremony, where the state school superintendent awards a plaque and flag to each school. The program and annual ceremonies are funded through the generosity of prominent California corporations and statewide education organizations that believe educational excellence should be rewarded and encouraged publicly.
In 2006, a record 377 public elementary schools were honored with the California Distinguished School Award, surpassing the 302 elementary schools honored in 2004 — the last elementary school award cycle. They represent the largest number of elementary school awardees in the 21-year history of the program.
The 2006 California schools awardees were chosen from 190 school districts in 40 counties. They were selected from the largest number of eligible elementary schools to date, setting another record for the program. Of the more than 5,000 elementary schools in California, 2,043 were eligible to apply for the 2006 award. California schools are proving that student scholastic excellence can be nurtured and consistently improved.