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A California Distinguished School is an award given by the California State Board of Education to public schools within the state that best represent exemplary and quality educational programs. Approximately five percent of California schools are awarded this honor each year following a selection process. Eligibility is based on federal and state criteria including the No Child Left Behind program, Academic Performance Index (API), and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).



The program was established in 1985 and alternates each year between elementary (even years) and secondary (odd years) schools. The schools are recognized as distinguished for four years, and after that the recognition may be renewed.

California Gold Ribbon SchoolEdit

Between 2015 and 2017, the California Department of Education awarded the California Gold Ribbon School designation for three years while California transitioned to its new assessment and accountability system. It returned to the California Distinguished School system beginning in 2018.

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