GGUSD Board Approves Resolution Recognizing 10 CA Distinguished Schools

Excelsior Elementary recognized as 2023 Distinguished School

At its meeting on March 21, the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Education approved Resolution No. 22 recognizing ten of its schools for earning the 2023 California Distinguished Schools award, eight of which were denied the award from the state based solely on COVID-19 absences. The resolution criticizes the California Department of Education’s unfair inclusion of COVID-19 absences in calculating chronic absenteeism rates, calling it an equity issue that punishes schools in high-poverty areas that were hardest hit by the pandemic.

The eight schools, honored by the Board of Education, which would have received 2023 CA Distinguished Schools awards if COVID-19 absences are removed include Anthony, Barker, Excelsior, Garden Park, Hazard, Morningside, and Patton elementary schools.  Allen and Cook elementary schools were the only two GGUSD schools officially recognized by the CDE as California Distinguished Schools at an award ceremony held last month.

The California Department of Education (CDE) identified and awarded 2023 California Distinguished Schools, using data from the 2021-2022 school year, based on five indicators as specified on the California School Dashboard including English Language Arts, Math, English Leaner Progress, Suspension Rates and Chronic Absenteeism. The Chronic absenteeism data includes both excused and unexcused absences including COVID-19 absences that were required by state and county health orders during the height of the pandemic.

According to Resolution No. 22, families were required to follow state and county isolation and quarantine guidance including a standard 10-day quarantine and/or isolation and were required to miss additional days of school with any two symptoms present and following an exposure. The impact of COVID-19 requirements was further exacerbated for high-poverty families living in closer quarters (with doubling or tripling-up common) as students were often forced to quarantine for 20 days due to inability to isolate from others in the home and had less access to medical resources, testing or health insurance.

“When the state makes a mistake that impacts our schools, it’s important that we use our voice to stand up for our students who by all other indicators met the state’s rigorous criteria and are deserving to be recognized as California Distinguished Schools,” said Board of Education President Walter Muneton. “We are extremely proud of our schools for their high performance on state testing and excellence in closing the achievement gap and we will be celebrating the successes they have earned.”

GGUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriela Mafi and the board have requested that the CDE re-run the data, excluding COVID-19 absences from the chronic absenteeism eligibility criteria, and re-issue the 2023 California Distinguished School awards to all deserving schools.

Superintendent Mafi and the board have also notified state elected officials about the unfair practice of including COVID-19 absences in the chronic absenteeism rates, which in addition to denying 8 GGUSD schools of the CA Distinguished Schools award, has also put 21 GGUSD schools on the state’s Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) list. If COVID-19 absences were removed, these 21 of 32 schools would not qualify for ATSI.

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