Two local middle schools, Hillview in Menlo Park and Corte Madera in Portola Valley, have been named Gold Ribbon schools by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
"These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching," he said in announcing the awards May 5. "They provide great examples of the things educators are doing right: embracing rigorous academic standards, providing excellence and creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school climate."
The application from Hillview Middle School says that since the Hillview campus was rebuilt in 2012, the school has been working to close the achievement gap between its top and bottom students. "Our goal is to define what learning will look like in five years and become that school right now," the application says.
Hillview, with 879 students and 84 staff members, has programs in place designed to bring all students up to at least grade level in English and math by the end of eighth grade.
In addition, the school has been working to reduce disciplinary problems. New programs for the most at-risk students include "Thrive," in which a small group of students spend three days a week in same-gender groups doing activities that "address their social and emotional needs." The application says the strong relationship between teachers and students in this class "motivates students to apply themselves with more effort in their studies."
"We have seen our number of suspensions dropped precipitously," the application says.
The Hillview application also highlights its program that equips every student in the school with an iPad to use in class and at home. The school has also offered "digital education" to parents.
The application from the fourth- to eighth-grade Corte Madera School says it is "focused on students and committed to excellence in all we do." The 352-student school says it works to link community, parents and school "to provide a learning environment that enables today's students to be prepared for tomorrow's demands."
Among the programs the school highlighted are the Readers/Writers Workshop, a STEM (Science, technology, engineering, math) initiative, technology-enhanced learning and a strong physical education program.
Corte Madera, the application says, is working to develop a "culture of investigation," which includes project-based learning.
"We also focus our efforts on building our school community with a culture of respect, responsibility and compassion" the application says, using social-emotional learning (SEL), instruction in all grades, and giving "opportunities for students to shape the culture and climate of our school."
The application mentions strong support from parents, who provide funding and resources for programs including physical education, a community garden, music, counseling, professional development and educational grants.
"Corte Madera is actively working to produce 21st century citizens who will have strong academic, critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to be innovators for the future," the application says.