Dixon High School made the grade today by becoming the only school in Solano County to receive the state’s highest educational honor.
On Tuesday afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that 97 middle and high school throughout the state – including Dixon High – made it onto the 2011 list of California Distinguished Schools.
“These schools are being recognized for attaining high levels of performance and sustained growth, and for making significant progress in closing the academic achievement gap,” Torlakson said in a prepared release. “Becoming a Distinguished School is a direct reflection of the dedication, hard work, and vision of each school’s education community. They have succeeded despite a bleak economic environment and have endeavored to maintain their momentum and focus.”
“We are just excited,” DHS Principal Ivan Chaidez said. “We went through the whole process, we are very honored and glad to be recognized. It’s something that definitely wins respect. It’s like winning the Super Bowl. This is a Super Bowl for the school.”
The state bestows the Distinguished School honor on schools that have met state and federal criteria including the Academic Performance Index, No Child Left Behind Program and Adequate Yearly Process.
As a nominee for the award, Dixon High needed to demonstrate two signature practices that have enhanced students’ level of achievement and can be replicated at other schools throughout the state. For DHS, those programs included its Small Learning Communities and Reading Apprenticeship Model Chaidez said.
Chaidez said that the Reading Apprenticeship Model, which was instituted 10 years ago, is a success because it helps students become more confident readers. It helps students – including English learners – perform better in tests by giving them tools that make them think deeper about what they are reading.
“The expectation at Dixon High is that all teachers are reading teachers,” said Chaidez in a press release. “Literacy is what we do on a daily basis in all of our classes. Of course, literacy looks different depending on the type of course. With this model, there are many great strategies we use for our English learners; however, the strategies work well for all students. Our attitude is that all of our students are English learners. This is why they take English for four years in high school.”
The small learning communities – which include the school’s Public Service, Industrial Trades, and Arts and Design Academies – motivate DHS juniors and seniors to learn, he said.
“Our Academies are getting students more connected to school and also making curriculum relevant to their interests,” Chaidez said. “The Academies are also like an extended family, in which students and teachers develop projects.”
But Chaidez said that the two signature practices were just a part of what makes Dixon High School a success. He also credited the school’s culture of putting students first; its curriculum; athletic programs that encourage students to be successful both off and on the field; the teachers who encourage and motivate their students; staff that makes the school run as well as the variety of programs that offer students multiple ways of succeeding.
“It takes a team effort, you know, we can’t just focus it on one thing,” he said.
Chaidez also said the school would not be able to get the award without the support of the Dixon Unified School District and said the school will need to continue to improve, as state and federal standards increase, if it’s to maintain its status as a distinguished school.
“This statewide recognition is proof that Dixon High School is committed to meeting the needs of all students,” DUSD Superintendent Roger Halberg said in a press release. “On behalf of the Dixon Unified School District, I want to express my deep appreciation of the hard work and dedication you provide to Dixon High School students.”
Late last year, the school received notification that it was being considered for the California Distinguished School Award. The California Department of Education instructed a team of educators from across the state to review DHS’ application and ensure that the signature practices were successful.
The state took a comprehensive look at the school’s graduation rates and assigned a Site Validation Team comprised of local educations as well as the Solano County Office of Education to visit the school and spend a day analyzing signature practices.
Jay Speck, Solano County Superintendent of Schools, stated in a press release “The California Distinguished Schools award serves to identify and honor some of the state’s most exemplary and inspiring public schools. Dixon Unified School District should be very proud of this well deserved award for its high school.”
The California School Recognition Program is now in its 25th year and honors the state's most exemplary and inspiring public schools with the California Distinguished School Award according to a press release. The 97 schools identified today join more than 5,300 public schools that have been designated or redesignated a Distinguished School since the program began in 1986.
What does this award mean for Dixon High and the community? Chaidez said that it adds a level of prestige to the school and could result in increased enrollment.
“That is exactly what will happen,” he said. “It’s going to make Dixon more attractive. It’s going to make the high school more attractive. Everyone wants to go to the best school in the area. We have great schools in our district.”