Oak Knoll School recognized as 2020 California Distinguished School

by Parke Treadway on December 20, 2019

Oak Knoll School, one of three elementary schools in the Menlo Park City School District, has been chosen as a 2020 California Distinguished School by the California Department of Education. The recognition reflects “outstanding education programs and practices” and represents “not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful school climate efforts” according to a statement from State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond.

The state selects schools based on a variety of assessment outcomes and also one Model Program or Practice, which the school chooses to highlight. Oak Knoll was selected in part because it has maintained a high level of achievement as measured by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing.

In 2018 (the year upon which the Distinguished School award was based), 85% of students exceeded or met standards in the area of English Language Arts (ELA), and 82% in math. At that time, the achievement of disaggregated groups continued to rise for gains of 14% average growth in math and 27% average growth in ELA across all student groups.

Oak Knoll serves a wide range of students with very different life experiences and speaking over a dozen different home languages, yet maintains cohesion through a positive school climate where students, teachers, and parents remain engaged and motivated.

In addition to its strong academic performance and assessment measures, Oak Knoll was selected for its Model Practice called Teacher, Peer, Admin (TPA). TPA improves teacher efficacy and has a significant impact on student achievement by providing a regular forum for classroom teachers to give and receive feedback, scale best practices, and professionally develop. During TPA, two teachers and an administrator visit classrooms together, discuss observations, and then share them school-wide.

“We believe that our success is the result of three things: the clarity of our school mission and goals, our positive school culture and climate, and our strong relationships and instruction,” said Principal Kristen Gracia. “Our students are so fortunate to have such incredible teachers. Our high-quality teachers are the main reason our students thrive.”

The California Department of Education recognized 323 elementary schools for 2020, including  eight from San Mateo County. All four of MPCSD’s schools — Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview — have received the Distinguished School honors multiple times. Oak Knoll previously received the Distinguished School award in 2014 for its equity work and growth mindset instruction. Oak Knoll will retain the 2020 honor for two years.

InMenlo file photo

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