Nine county districts on 2023 California Distinguished Schools list

African-american schoolgirl pupil student using working with microscope
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Twenty-one schools governed by nine San Diego County school districts have been chosen for the 2023 California Distinguished Schools award program, announced by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

The state Department of Education named more than 350 elementary schools to the program, which is back this year after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily suspended the reporting of data used to choose the schools. The California Distinguished Schools Award, created in 1985, celebrates exceptional schools, districts, teachers and classified employees for their success in supporting students.

To evaluate the schools, the state Department of Education uses multiple measures, including data reported through the 2022 California School Dashboard, which assesses test results, absenteeism, suspension rates, and socioeconomic data. Information from the 2022 Dashboard is available at

Schools were recognized for excellence either in closing the achievement gap or for exceptional student performance. Elementary schools and middle and high schools are honored in alternate years.

“It is my pleasure to honor and recognize these 356 elementary schools for providing outstanding public education and opportunities to students. Their innovation and hard work have helped to ensure their students can heal, recover, and thrive — even in the toughest times,” Thurmond said in a statement. “California Distinguished Schools represent examples of not just excellent teaching, learning, and collaboration, but also highly successful, data-driven school efforts ranging from professional development for educators to mental health and social-emotional wellness strategies to address the needs of students and families.”

The San Diego County school districts whose schools were honored are:
Del Mar Union Elementary School District: Ocean Air Elementary, Sage Canyon Elementary, Ashley Falls Elementary, Sycamore Ridge Elementary, Carmel Del Mar Elementary
Encinitas Union Elementary School District: El Camino Creek Elementary, Capri Elementary
Escondido Union Elementary School District: Classical Academy, Heritage K-8 Charter
Julian Union Elementary School District: Julian Charter School — Mountain Oaks (in Encinitas)
Mountain Empire Unified School District: Elite Academic Academy — Mountain Empire (in Temecula)
San Diego County Office of Education: Classical Academy Vista
San Diego Unified School District: Scripps Elementary, Mt. Everest Academy, Innovations Academy
Solana Beach School District: Carmel Creek Elementary, Solana Highlands Elementary, Solana Pacific Elementary, Skyline Elementary, Solana Ranch Elementary
Warner Unified School District: Excel Academy Charter (in Irvine)