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Rancho Pico Junior High named California Distinguished School

Award to be presented in Anaheim May 19

Posted: April 3, 2009 2:54 p.m.
Updated: April 3, 2009 2:43 p.m.
Rancho Pico Junior High Principal Michele Krantz heads a California Distinguished School. Rancho Pico Junior High Principal Michele Krantz heads a California Distinguished School.
Rancho Pico Junior High Principal Michele Krantz heads a California Distinguished School.

Michele Krantz, principal of Rancho Pico Junior High School, received a welcome phone call this week from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell officially confirming that the Stevenson Ranch school is one of 261 California middle and high schools selected as 2009 California Distinguished Schools.

The annual award recognizes some of the state's most exemplary public schools. Under newly revised criteria this year, honorees had to meet traditional measures of academic excellence and also had to demonstrate that they are narrowing the achievement gaps between groups of students-white students and students of color, as well as English learners, those from impoverished families and students with disabilities.

This year, the selection process required schools to provide an in-depth description of two "signature" practices implemented at the schools that are replicable, and directly related to the success of their students. Rancho Pico chose to highlight its strong interdisciplinary and content-based team structure, which divides the student body into eight smaller teams where teachers collaborate regularly to meet all the needs of their students.

The second signature practice highlighted by Rancho Pico is the school's intervention program, designed for carefully targeted student populations. The program serves all students, from those scoring "far below basic," who require remediation and basic skills, to students in the school's Gifted and Talented program who need enrichment.

During an intensive site visitation by a trained team of external educators, additional evidence about the effectiveness of the signature practices was gathered and analyzed. Information about these successful practices will be shared through the CDE Web site and other venues including an upcoming Web tool for educators called the Brokers of Expertise to become operational later this year.

"We are thrilled!" Krantz exclaimed upon receiving news of her school's designation. "It is an affirmation of the hard work that students, teachers and staff do. I am so fortunate to have such dedication to learning."

She noted that the requirements to apply for the California Distinguished School designation were much more stringent than in years past. Only Rancho Pico and Academy of the Canyons met this year's eligibility requirements in the Hart School District, and AOC could not apply because of its small size.

Golden Valley High School and Arroyo Seco Junior High earned the California Distinguished School designation in 2007, the last time the awards were granted to high schools and middle schools. Hart District schools which have received the designation in the past include Placerita and Sierra Vista junior high schools and Canyon and Saugus high schools.

"California Distinguished Schools must meet the challenge of providing all their students with a rigorous education and to fully prepare today's students for success in postsecondary education or the workforce," O'Connell said. "In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is important that the academic success of all of today's students is directly linked to the effectiveness, competitiveness, and resiliency of our not-too-distant future workforce.

"In addition, these extraordinary middle and high schools have shown they are able to increase the achievement of all their students and have provided evidence that they are closing the achievement gaps that, unfortunately, exist at many schools. The Distinguished Schools program always identified schools that are leaders in academic achievement. It now also recognizes schools that are leaders in helping all students succeed, and highlights the best practices that are effective in closing the gap."

Rancho Pico opened in 2004 and currently has just under 1,000 students.

The core values stressed in the school's Distinguished School application says: "We will develop genuine and authentic relationships with all parents, students and the community. We believe in the power and effectiveness of teaming to meet the needs of students through small learning communities, based on the principles of a school within a school. We believe all classes must have a defined, viable and rigorous standards-based curriculum. We believe the best interest of our students must be the driving force in all of our decisions."

"This is certainly a testament to the focus on instruction within out entire school community that provides the necessary support and intervention in order to afford all students the opportunity to be successful," said Superintendent Jaime Castellanos. "On behalf of the Board of Education and the Hart School District, we are extremely proud of this achievement by Rancho Pico."

The selected middle and high schools represent about 10.9 percent of California's nearly 2,400 middle and high schools. Of those, only 341 schools met the eligibility criteria based on their student achievement and were chosen from 170 school districts in 46 counties.

Rancho Pico will receive its award at a ceremony honoring the Distinguished Schools on Friday, May 29, at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.



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