“It is an honor to recognize the schools, and the students, parents, teachers and administrators who helped earn this most prestigious distinction,” O’Connell said in a statement.
The schools were selected in accordance with their academic excellence and for having narrowed student achievement gaps, O’Connell said. He directed all schools across the state to review the techniques that the “distinguished schools” have incorporated into their curriculum.
Rich Rodriguez, principal of Newport Coast, said he was excited to hear O’Connell voicemail Monday morning.
“I don’t know if they pre-recorded it or not,” Rodriguez said. “But it basically said, ‘Congratulations,’ that we were going to be honored as a distinguished school and that we should share it with the rest of the staff.”
He said the trick to the school’s success is identifying the students who need help, then tutoring them in smaller groups.
“If the students need extra support, then we intervene and make sure they get it on a regular basis,” he said.
As for students who perform extremely well and manage to master certain skills, say reading and literature, well then they take it one step further and expand upon it, something akin to extra credit, he said.
That the school opened in 2001 and has won such an award really came as a pleasant surprise to Rodriguez, he said.
The 2010 California Distinguished Schools are geographically diverse, O’Connell said.
Most have significant populations of students living in poverty or learning English.
“I had the privilege to call all the winning schools and personally shared the good news with each principal,” O’Connell said. “These educators ... clearly share a school-wide vision of excellence where every student can succeed and achieve at the very highest levels of performance.”