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Thurston Middle School Earns Top Marks in State

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced this week that 162 middle and high schools are being honored as part of the 2019 Distinguished Schools Program—the state’s highest level of recognition. Of those 162 schools, 25 are in Orange County, including Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Thurston Middle School.

Sponsored by the California Department of Education and California Casualty, the program recognizes outstanding education programs and practices. Schools are awarded for achieving exceptional student performance for two consecutive school years or closing the achievement gap between two school years.

“I would like to commend these schools for fighting for a better future for our students, closing achievement gaps, and improving academic performance,” Thurmond said. “Thanks to teachers, administrators, classified employees, and parents working together, these schools meet the needs of all of their students, provide high-quality educational experiences, and put kids on a pathway to great careers.”

A component of the California School Recognition Program, the Distinguished Schools program was on a three-year pause while California transitioned to its new assessment and accountability system. From 2015 to 2017, California recognized schools that demonstrated exemplary achievements with the California Gold Ribbon Schools Program. The Distinguished Schools program returned last year. It recognizes elementary and middle and high schools in alternate years and allows eligible schools to apply once every two years. Schools recognized as awardees hold the title for two years.

Schools that applied were eligible based on their performance and progress on the state indicators as described on the California School Dashboard. Indicators include test scores, suspension rates, and graduation rates. Schools were also eligible to apply for a California Exemplary Program Award in Arts Education, Physical Activity and Nutrition Education, or Career Technical Education—which will be announced at a later time.

“Distinguished School award winners represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful school climate efforts ranging from real-time conflict resolution to positive behavior intervention,” Thurmond said.

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