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CHS officials proud of ‘Distinguished School’ designation
• For progress made in closing ‘achievement gap’
CHS administrative team headed by Principal Rita Menezes
The CHS administrative team headed by Principal Rita Menezes (directly above logo), proudly display the 2024 California Distinguished School banner. - photo by Photo courtesy of Ceres Unified School District

Administrators at Ceres High School expressed elation about their campus winning status as a 2024 California Distinguished School.

The honor means Ceres High – based on criteria set by the California Department of Education – is considered to be among the top five to 10 percent high schools in California. The announcement was made Feb. 29 by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. A total of 293 middle schools and high schools were selected for the prestigious 2024 California Distinguished Schools Program, California’s school recognition program that recognizes two categories of exceptional schools: those closing the achievement gap; and those demonstrating exceptional student performance. Ceres High was recognized for outstanding progress toward closing the achievement gap.

To qualify for this recognition, the CDE says schools must enroll at least 40 percent of their students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, demonstrate exemplary overall performance in English Language Arts and math, and achieve accelerated academic growth for one or more historically underserved student groups. CHS leaders accepted the award at a statewide celebration held May 3.

“It is an absolute honor to be recognized among some of the top-performing schools in the state,” said Principal Rita Menezes. “As a site, Ceres High has been focused and intentional about partnering with our students to ensure that learning is deep and meaningful. Being named a California Distinguished School is definitely a cause for celebration and an indication that our daily efforts are paying off for our students in tangible ways.”

The California Distinguished Schools Award emerged in 1985 as a way to celebrate exceptional schools, districts, teachers, and classified employees for their innovation, talent, and success in supporting students, according to a CDE media release announcing the honorees. The CDE uses multiple measures to identify eligible schools based on their performance on the state indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard. Specifically, this year’s honorees were selected by analyzing data reported through the 2023 Dashboard, with a focus on demonstrating excellence and growth in academic achievement and ensuring a positive school climate.

“We are incredibly proud of Ceres High School’s achievement and grateful for the collaborative efforts that have made this distinction possible.” said Dr. Amy Peterman, Deputy Superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District. “This award recognizes the hard work and diligence of our outstanding educators, tenacious students, and a community committed to nurturing excellence. It reaffirms our commitment to ensuring that every student has what they need to discover their passion and succeed in college and careers.”

While 12.6 points below the standard in English Language Arts, Ceres High increased by 26.2 points. In mathematics, CHS increased by 10.3 points among all students. It still remains 110.3 points below the state standard. The dashboard shows that 40.3 percent of English Learners had made progress.

Ceres High School had a 93.3 percent graduation rate in 2023, which declined by 2.5 percent from 95.8 percent in 2022. Among those who failed to meet graduation requirements were students with disabilities, English learners and Hispanics.

CDE’s Distinguished Schools program recognizes elementary and secondary schools in alternate years, honoring “some of California’s most exemplary and inspiring public schools,” according to the program website. La Rosa Elementary was recognized in 2020.

Ross Middle School in Hughson was also named a Distinguished School as was Modesto High School.