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Lincoln Middle School Students Earn State's Top Achievement Award

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By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

May 11, 2015 -- Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica has earned the State Department of Education's Gold Ribbon Award, California's highest award for academic excellence, officials announced.

Lincoln Middle was one of only 193 middle schools selected for the award, which honors schools that have made significant gains “in implementing the academic content and performance standards adopted by the State Board of Education for all students,” said Pam Slater, spokeswoman for Department of Education.

State education officials didn't release how many schools applied for the self-nominating award, but California has more than 1,300 middle and junior high schools that potentially could have competed.

“These schools are academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said announcing the awards last week.

“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.”

Part of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the campus on California Avenue of about 1,140 students consistently ranks 9 out of 10 on the state's Academic Performance Index.

According to a snapshot of the school provided by the state Department of Education, 36 percent of parents of Lincoln students completed graduate school and 39 percent are college graduates.

But Lincoln was selected for implementing “innovative” teaching methods that have improved students' writing, said Gail Pinsker, the district’s spokesperson.

As part of the Gold Ribbon selection process, a team of educators visited the campus to get a first-hand look at Lincoln's programs and teaching strategies, Pinsker said.

According to Slater, “Schools applied for the award based on a model program their school has adopted that includes standards-based activities, projects, strategies, and practices that can be replicated by other local educational agencies.

State education officials also recognized Lincoln for launching new strategies “to close the achievement gap in seventh- and eighth-graders,” said Pinsker.

Lincoln parents and teachers meet regularly to go over students' progress, and the school provides  “targeted one-on-one conferences with students,” Pinsker said.

“Its goal to ensure that all students have access to the same quality of rigorous, appropriate instruction that increases English fluency and results in classroom writing scores that are proficient or above,” she said.

This is the first year state education officials have announced Gold Ribbon awards. Previously, the Department of Education used the Distinguished Schools Awards to honor top achieving schools, but that program is “on hiatus while California creates new assessment and accountability systems,” Slater said.

The new award recognized middle and high schools this year and will honor outstanding elementary schools in 2016, said Slater.

“This award is a resounding validation of the quality of teachers and student-oriented programs created and implemented in Santa Monica-Malibu Unified,” said Superintendent Sandra Lyon said.

“Educators at our schools are constantly working and collaborating to find new and better ways to support students on their journeys to success.”

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