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Newport-Mesa Schools Receive California Distinguished Schools Award
Posted 12/20/19

California, Killybroooke, Paularino and Sonora Elementary Schools were named 2020 California Distinguished Schools, by the California Department of Education for their outstanding educational programs and practices. Schools selected for the Distinguished School Award demonstrate significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap. Multiple factors are considered for this recognition, such as a schools performance and progress on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard

“Our schools have demonstrated significant growth in raising the achievement bar and fostering a culture of acceptance and understanding,” said Superintendent Dr. Fred Navarro. “They’ve done this  by focusing on improving instruction, making decisions with all students in mind, building the staff’s capacity and working together to find the right solutions, well done!,” he said.

California Elementary

California Elementary was recognized for its California Performing Arts Crew (CPAC) program, which incorporated show choir and band for students of all abilities.

California Elementary identified unique student needs to promote academic excellence from a different perspective than most models, to engage students who are not engaged through traditional instruction methods. Playing music, singing, dancing, and reciting theatrical dialogue - develop and reinforce language arts skills.

The CPAC program teaches visual and performing arts standards, encourages literacy development, and fosters social-emotional well-being in a low-risk, safe learning environment. To support CPAC students, many teachers incorporate chanting, singing, rhythm, and movement in math and English language arts (ELA). Classroom presentations, readers’ theater, and listening and speaking protocols support vocal projection, rhythmic reading and recitation. Students, parents, and community partners come together for rehearsals, competitions, and performances, resulting in a greater sense of community.

CPAC aligns with the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) goals, including:

  • Increase ELA achievement

  • Provide a broad course of study

  • Support academic achievement through character education and good attendance

  • Involve parents in their children’s education

  • Prepare students for success in college and/or careers

Students also learn skills such as public speaking, peer support, time management, and collaboration. CPAC promotes campus leadership, and encourages students to demonstrate positive behavior. 

In recent years, student achievement in ELA and math have improved and there has been a decline in chronic absenteeism and suspensions, all factors contributing to a positive school culture.  

Killybrooke Elementary

Killybrooke Elementary was recognized for its Strategic Offerings to Accelerate Academic Results (SOAR) program, which is a small group instructional support program. The program includes tailored instruction to individual student needs in the areas of K-2 phonics and fluency groups; grades 3-6 phonics, fluency, and reading comprehension groups; grade 5 math groups; a newcomer English language development (ELD) group; social-emotional growth groups; and a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) research/inquiry group.

Since inception of the program in 2016, Killybrooke has seen tremendous growth in student achievement. Some examples include:

  • Foundational reading skills increase of more than 10 percentage points in two years

  • Average Star Reading growth of 9.5 months, with 60 percent of students exceeding the expected growth rate 

  • California School Dashboard noted all student subgroups in the blue and green ranges, which indicate high achievement and/or significant growth

  • State test scores in English language arts and math for all student groups are exceeding district, county, and state scores 

“This recognition is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our staff, students, and families to academic achievement and a positive school experience for all students,” said Principal Dr. Lorie Hoggard. “We strongly believe that every student can meet or exceed academic standards, no matter what challenges students bring to school,” she said.

Killybrooke’s implementation of SOAR has helped students overcome academic challenges, as well as social-emotional and behavioral challenges, to support academic achievement.

Paularino Elementary 

Paularino Elementary School was recognized as a California Distinguished School for their Reading Our Way to College (ROWTC) program. ROWTC integrates No Excuses University systems, Accelerated Reading, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) program practices.

ROWTC provides time and incentives for students to meet grade-level reading goals. As part of the program, students are supported in their reading skills through both core instruction and small, differentiated, group instruction. In addition, each student is expected to meet independent reading goals which are set every six weeks. Students meet their goals by reading both at school and home.  

Students receive regular progress reports regarding their goals and students meeting their goals are invited to an all school party with the principal. Now, Paularino has more than 85 percent of students consistently meeting and exceeding their goals. In addition to the programs supporting students during the day, after school programs and a summer jump start program help reinforce the goals of ROWTC. 

Paularino’s focus on social emotional learning and the Character Count Traits support the ROWTC academic goals. For example, students celebrate a wide range of individual goals based on abilities to demonstrate fairness. They make a plan and timetable to achieve goals to demonstrate responsibility. A student may become a buddy reader to a younger student or peer, to demonstrate respect. Students offer words of encouragement to students not meeting their goals to show caring. Students help younger students navigate computer comprehension quizzes to show good citizenship.

Since inception of the ROWTC program, students have improved in academic achievement and chronic absenteeism and suspension rates have decreased, reflecting Paularino’s positive school culture that focuses on building meaningful relationships and maintaining high expectations. These relationships and expectations enable students to be successful and motivated to do their best.

Sonora Elementary

Sonora Elementary School was recognized as a California Distinguished School due to the significant contributions that their No Excuses University Support System has had in closing the achievement gap.

Sonora develops interventions to address the academic and social-emotional needs of all students, including early literacy skills, reading comprehension, math fluency, mathematical concepts, and social-emotional health. Through their support systems, Sonora has seen improvement in student achievement, as shown by the most recent state testing results and local assessments:

  • Students in grade 3-6 showed steady increases of almost 20 percent in English language arts state scores, and more than 13 percent increase in math

  • Socioeconomically disadvantaged sixth grade students' state test scores improved 15 percent

  • English learner state test scores improved 14 percent 

  • Students in grades 2-6 showed a steady increase in reading comprehension, improving more than 50 percent

While the focus of the program is to improve academic success for students, it also has helped shape a more welcoming and positive school culture. Chronic absenteeism and suspensions have decreased, allowing students to be more engaged, motivated and better prepared to learn. 

“Students have a sense of inclusivity and belonging at Sonora, which is fostered by teachers’ understanding of building relationships and providing academic and social/emotional supports,” said Principal Mia Doidge. “Our staff is extremely dedicated and caring and it shows in all of our interactions with kids,” she said.

The four school will be recognized at the 2020 California School Recognition Program Awards Ceremony on February 10, 2020.