Schools in Modesto, Ceres, Hickman make the grade

naustin@modbee.comMay 1, 2014 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com
  • 2014 California Distinguished Schools

    Bethany Elementary in Tracy, Lammersville Unified School District

    Agnes M. Baptist Elementary in north Modesto, Stanislaus Union School District

    Enslen Elementary in Modesto City Schools

    Hickman Charter in Hickman Community Charter School District

    Sinclear Elementary in Ceres Unified School District

    Thomas Olaeta Elementary in Atwater Elementary School District

    Allan Peterson Elementary in Merced City Elementary School District

    Sherman Thomas Charter in Madera Unified School District

    Source: California Department of Education

Enslen Elementary and Agnes Baptist Elementary in Modesto made the state’s 2014 list of California Distinguished Schools. Also on the annual roster of high performing schools were Sinclear Elementary in Ceres, Hickman Charter School, Olaeta Elementary in Atwater and Peterson Elementary in Merced.

The six were among 424 schools named by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson as making the list. Schools chosen for the award must have strong test scores and show progress in bridging the achievement gap for poor and minority students.

“I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success,” Torlakson said. “This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work and unwavering support.”

Schools that meet the scholastic requirements are invited to apply to the program. In their applications, schools must describe two practices that have helped their students that can be studied by other schools. There is also a site visit to review what the program calls signature practices.

Enslen Elementary celebrated the news with the song “Celebrate!” coming over the school loudspeakers with the announcement Wednesday afternoon. Thursday at the school’s open house, parents shared in the glow before being treated to a whole-school flash mob.

“We are over the moon,” said Modesto City Schools Superintendent Pam Able. “Kudos to Enslen staff for their unwavering commitment to closing the achievement gap,” she said. “This recognition is well-deserved.”

In the Stanislaus Union School District in north Modesto, Agnes Baptist Elementary’s signature practices focus on wrapping writing into English-learner instruction and inclusion of all students, said Superintendent Britta M. Skavdahl.

“Teachers across all programs (gifted, regular and special education) are very inclusive. As such they trade students back and forth as it benefits each child,” Skavdahl said Thursday by email. For example, she said, a special education teacher with a background in theater is helping with a play being performed by students in gifted classes, with his students included in the production.

“At the end of the day, the bottom line is: Every student, every day, by name, by need, no matter what it takes,” Skavdahl wrote.

The achievement at Sinclear included involving the entire school community, said Ceres Unified Superintendent Scott Siegel.

“The site staff has been particularly focused on involving families in their students’ learning and utilizing strong instructional practices that engage all students,” Siegel said.

Recognition of the Hickman program extends distinguished status to the home-school community, noted Hickman Charter Superintendent Paul Gardner.

“Hickman Charter School was founded 20 years ago with the mission of serving home-school families. The foundation of that work has been the collaborative relationship between our teachers and the families they serve,” Gardner said. “We are particularly proud to be recognized for excellence in this area. It is not only our signature practice but core to who we are.”

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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