Oak Knoll, Las Lomitas schools earn Distinguished Schools honor | January 1, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Schools - January 1, 2020

Oak Knoll, Las Lomitas schools earn Distinguished Schools honor

by Angela Swartz

Two local schools have been named 2020 California Distinguished Schools, according to the California Department of Education, which named the recognized schools on Dec. 18.

Oak Knoll in Menlo Park and Las Lomitas in Atherton were two of the 323 elementary schools chosen for the statewide honor. The award reflects "outstanding education programs and practices," and represents "not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful school climate efforts," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in announcing the honorees.

Oak Knoll Principal Kristen Gracia said in a prepared statement: "We believe that our success is the result of three things: the clarity of our school mission and goals, our positive school culture and climate, and our strong relationships and instruction. Our students are so fortunate to have such incredible teachers. Our high-quality teachers are the main reason our students thrive."

The state chooses distinguished schools based on a variety of assessments, and also one model program or practice that the school chooses to highlight.

The state Department of Education chose Oak Knoll, in part, because the school's students have maintained a high level of achievement on Smarter Balanced Assessments, the most widely used standardized tests statewide, according to a Menlo Park City School District press release.

During the 2017-18 school year — the year in which the award was based — 85% of students met or exceeded English language arts standards, and nearly 82% did so with math standards, according to state-released testing results.

At that time, the achievement of "disaggregated groups" — socio-economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, and students who are Hispanic, Pacific Islander or African-American — continued to rise for gains of a 14% average growth in math and a 27% average growth in English language arts across all student groups, according to the district.

"Oak Knoll serves a wide range of students with very different life experiences and speaking over a dozen different home languages, yet maintains cohesion through a positive school climate where students, teachers, and parents remain engaged and motivated," the press release says.

In addition to its strong academic performance and assessment measures, Oak Knoll was recognized for its model practice called Teacher, Peer, Admin, according to the Menlo Park district. With this practice, two teachers and an administrator visit classrooms together, discuss observations, and then share them schoolwide.

During the 2017-18 school year, 87% of Las Lomitas students met or exceeded English language arts standards, and 88% met or exceeded math standards.

Las Lomitas district officials could not be reached for comment for this story.

Oak Knoll previously received the Distinguished School award in 2014 for its equity work and growth mindset instruction, according to the Menlo Park district.

Las Lomitas previously received the award in 2010.

View the full list of winners at tinyurl.com/2020distinguishedschools.

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