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Local School Honored

SDSU’s National Center for Urban School Transformation selects a local school as a top high-performing urban school.
An El Cajon school was honored with the gold-level award.
An El Cajon school was honored with the gold-level award.

A San Diego school was awarded top honors for Excellence in Urban Education from San Diego State University’s National Center for Urban School Transformation.

Excellence and Justice in Education Academy in El Cajon, a charter school since 2004, which instructs grades K-5, was presented with the center’s highest honor — gold — at the National Excellence in Urban Education Symposium.

The academy has developed and implemented successful tools to maximize student learning, increase parent involvement and provide purposeful staff development training. As a recipient of the Gold Award, the school received $5,000 to support its educational efforts.

Under the leadership of Joe Johnson, Jr., Ph.D., dean of SDSU’s College of Education, the center identifies, celebrates and studies urban schools that achieve excellent academic results. The center works hand-in-hand with educators to not only improve urban education, but transform it.

“As a nation, we should be seeking out opportunities to applaud and support schools such as Excellence and Justice in Education Academy, while we provide systematic, substantive assistance to other schools seeking to attain similar results,” Johnson said.

Award-winning schools

Sixteen elementary, junior high and high schools were identified as finalists for the awards. At the National Excellence in Urban Education Symposium, May 21 through 23 in San Diego, winners were recognized including eight bronze-level, five silver-level, which each received $2,500; and three gold-level, which each received $5,000.

Gold level winners were:

  • Excellence and Justice in Education Academy
  • Eastwood Middle in El Paso, Texas
  • Revere High School in Boston

Competing for success

To compete for the awards, schools had to serve predominantly low-income students while meeting a list of student performance criteria, including achievement scores, high attendance rates, low suspension rates, and high graduation rates for every demographic group of students.

The center examined access to rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, student success in high-level programs and courses (e.g., advanced placement programs), the academic proficiency of English learners, and the percentages of graduates demonstrating success in college.

Finalists were drawn from a large pool of applicants including several schools that have earned recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools and National Title I Distinguished Schools.

“The finalists attained a level of achievement more typically seen in schools that serve very affluent communities,” Johnson said. 

“They’ve demonstrated evidence of effectiveness among all of the student populations they serve, including English learners and students with disabilities. They prove that our nation’s urban schools can be wonderful centers of learning that change children’s lives,” Johnson said.

Recognizing results

The National Center for Urban School Transformation was created in 2005 with a $2.5 million endowment as part of the Qualcomm Institute for Innovation and Educational Success at SDSU. Since its inception, the center seeks to transform urban schools performing at or below acceptable standards into high-achieving educational environments.

The center has identified, celebrated and promoted the best practices of the nation’s highest performing urban schools, honoring 91 schools in 22 states.

It provides programs, tools and research intended to help districts create more high-performing urban schools.

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