Atwater's Thomas Olaeta Elementary School is one of 117 statewide to receive a 2011-2012 Title I Academic Achievement Award.
Principal Ana Boyenga summoned the school's teachers Wednesday afternoon to break the news from the state Department of Education about the award. It's a first for the school, which received a California Distinguished School award from the state in the 1980s.
"We're extremely thrilled to receive this award," Boyenga said. "We are focusing on state standards and have seen some outstanding academic growth."
The school, on Bellevue Road, has 512 kindergarten through sixth-grade students. Boyenga said strategic collaboration between teachers helped the school win the award.
Michelle McBride, assistant superintendent for educational services of the Atwater Elementary School District, said Thomas Olaeta school received an 830 API ranking on state testing and came within two points of qualifying for the Distinguished School award.
McBride said all district schools are working hard to increase academic achievement and she hopes they will continue to see growth among all students.
"This is quite an accomplishment for administrators, teachers, students and parents," McBride said.
Superintendent Melinda Hennes said Olaeta school's accomplishments are great news and the school certainly has made tremendous gains.
The award is given only to schools receiving federal Title I funds through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Title I is the single largest federal educational program for public education.
Of more than 9,000 schools in California, more than 6,000 of them participate in the Title I program.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the criteria to qualify for the Title I award have become more rigorous in recent years. A school must demonstrate that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California's academic content standards.
The school's socioeconomically disadvantaged students must have doubled the achievement targets set for them for two consecutive years.
"The progress being made at these schools, which serve our neediest students, should serve as a beacon of hope for California," Torlakson said. "At a time of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty, they continue to improve, building a brighter future for their students."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.