May 1, 2014

Schools in Modesto, Ceres, Hickman make the grade

Four schools in Stanislaus County and two in Merced made the list of California Distinguished Schools for 2014.

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.”

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