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Aptos High School earns state award

Posted: Thursday, Apr 11th, 2013

Casey O'Brien, principal of Aptos High School, and Rosa Abreo, a senior, talk about the school being named a California Distinguished School Thursday. In the second picture, Barrett Vitol (left) heads up an economics class for seniors Thursday at Aptos High School. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)

APTOS — Aptos High School senior Rosa Abreo came to the U.S. two years ago from Mexico with nearly no knowledge of English.

Abreo is now fluent, which she largely attributes to help she received from the teachers and other staffers at the school.

It is because of the support she and “under-represented” students like her get at Aptos High that the school was named Thursday a California Distinguished School by the California Department of Education.

“I feel honored to be a part of it,” Abreo said. “Just having the opportunity to be in a school that gives me the education I want.”

The school was also recognized for its emphasis on professional development for its teachers, which focuses on using student achievement data to develop teaching strategies.

“Those are things we feel we’re doing well, and apparently the state agreed,” Principal Casey O’Brien said.

According to the CDE, the California Distinguished School Award honors schools that have made progress in narrowing the so-called achievement gap, or the difference in academic performance between white students and minority groups such as Hispanic, English learners and those with special needs.

The school is one of 218 high schools and middle schools throughout the state that received the distinction, and one of three in Santa Cruz County. Scotts Valley High and Scotts Valley Middle schools were also named distinguished schools.

“These schools have gone the extra mile to provide high-quality instruction that puts their students on the right path toward career and college,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “Given the enormous challenges schools have faced in recent years, it is inspiring to see this kind of success in so many schools. Our future depends on meeting the needs of every student no matter where they come from or where they live.”

To earn the Distinguished School honors, schools must be invited by state education officials after earning high scores on state and federal assessments.

Once invited, the schools then submit an application that describes two of the school’s “signature practices.” The application is reviewed by the CDE, and if approved, the final step is a visit by county health officials.

Junior Brianna Miltmore said the honor will give her an extra leg-up when she puts it on her college applications.

“That’s why I’m excited about this,” she said.

The Distinguished Schools winners will be honored in May at an awards ceremony, where Torlakson will present each school with a 2013 Distinguished School plaque and flag.

“Aptos High School is a fine example of an efficient ocean-going vessel that has all oars in the water, each working in time and unison to meet the needs of each of its passengers,” O’Brien said.

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