State honors Ramona Elementary as a Title 1 Academic Achievement School

Ramona Elementary School Principal Phyllis Munoz talks with students shortly after the announcement that she is Association of California School Administrators’ Principal of the Year for San Diego and Imperial counties. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson
Ramona Elementary School Principal Phyllis Munoz talks with students shortly after the announcement that she is Association of California School Administrators’ Principal of the Year for San Diego and Imperial counties. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

By Maureen Robertson

For the second time in less than two weeks, Ramona Unified School District learned one of its five traditional elementary schools has received a state award.

“In a whirlwind of ongoing recognition, we offer our congratulations today to the students and staff of Ramona Elementary School for being recognized as a 2012 Title I Academic Achievement School,” Superintendent Robert Graeff stated in an email to district employees on Wednesday. “In an announcement released today from the California Department of Education, we learned that RE is only one of 117 other K-12 Title I schools across the entire state of California being recognized for this outstanding achievement.”

“The progress being made at these schools, which serve our neediest students, should serve as a beacon of hope for California,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “At a time of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty, they continue to improve, building a brighter future for their students. Their accomplishments prove the value of investing in our schools, and I thank the hardworking parents, teachers, administrator, and school employees at these campuses for their efforts.”

To qualify for this honor, Title I schools must meet a collection of stringent criteria, Graeff said, including:

• The school cannot be in Program Improvement.

• The elementary school must have a current Academic Performance Index (API) score above 810.

• The school must have met their schoolwide API targets and the API targets for each of their numerically significant subgroups for the past two years.

• The school must not have experienced any testing irregularities during STAR testing.

Title 1 schools receive federal money to help meet the educational needs of students living at or below the poverty line. Of the district’s 10 schools, Ramona Elementary has the highest percentage of students at or below the poverty line — 70.6 percent — reports Cathy Pierce, assistant superintendent of education services for the district. The percentage is based on the number of students receiving free and reduced-price meals, she explained. The districtwide percentage of students at or below the poverty line is 36.6 percent, she said.

“What they have done is phenomenal,” said Pierce. “It is a well-deserved honor...This is a very prestigious award.”

According to the state Department of Education, Ramona Elementary met all of its growth targets.

“The criteria to qualify for the Title 1 award have become more rigorous in recent years,” said Torlakson. “To meet the criteria for this distinction, the school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California’s academic content standards. Additionally, the school’s socioeconomically disadvantaged students must have doubled the achievement targets set for them for two consecutive years.”

Ramona Elementary’s API score for 2011 is 836, 30 points higher than the previous year.

“Congratulations to the staff, parents, and students of Ramona Elementary School for earning recognition and praise for our entire school community,” said Graeff.

More information on the list of the state’s list of honored schools can be accessed at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/aa/.

San Diego County Office of Education will hold a celebratory event for Ramona Elementary and other award-winning schools on May 23 in Mission Valley, said Graeff.

Also at the event will be representatives of Barnett Elementary, also in the Ramona district.

On March 29, Torlakson announced that Barnett Elementary is a 2012 California Distinguished School. When he announced that award to district employees, Graeff said, “Barnett joins a current three-year winning streak in our local district, as Ramona High and Mt. Woodson have received the same (Distinguished School) honor over the previous two years, while Olive Peirce (Middle School) was recognized earlier this year as a national School to Watch.”

   
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