Heron, Two Rivers Honored by State with Gold Ribbon School Awards

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Heron and Two Rivers elementary schools were honored for excellence Wednesday by the California Department of Education, which selected them for a prestigious Gold Ribbon School Award based on innovation and effectiveness in implementing state academic content and performance standards.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson named Heron and Two Rivers among 772 elementary schools honored statewide. Sixteen Sacramento County campuses received the award. Nearly 6,000 California elementary schools were eligible to apply.

“These schools shine as bright beacons for others, putting forth an exemplary effort to ensure that every student is ready for 21st century college and careers,” Torlakson said. “California teachers are developing an education model for the nation, training the students of today to be the problem-solvers, inventors, and pioneers of tomorrow.”

California’s Gold Ribbon School Award recognizes successful, vibrant, innovative centers of learning and teaching that provide great examples of things educators are doing right – embracing rigorous academic standards, emphasizing creativity in teaching, and creating a positive school environment.

“We’re honored to have two of our campuses chosen as among California’s finest,” Superintendent Chris Evans said. “Gold Ribbon recognition of Heron and Two Rivers is a testament to their teachers, administrators and support staff, working collaboratively and effectively with their campus community.”

Qualities touted by California’s Gold Ribbon are consistent with NUSD’s Core Beliefs that, “Every student can learn and succeed,” and “Disparity and disproportionality can and must be eliminated.” The Gold Ribbon program was created to honor outstanding schools in lieu of the state’s Distinguished Schools Award, which is on hiatus while California creates new assessment and accountability systems.

Heron’s Gold Ribbon honors an academic program that aims to challenge all students through interdisciplinary instruction that emphasizes STEAM – an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics – while supporting students’ academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs. For several years, Heron students have used technology to videotape and edit a weekly “Heron Show.”  Every grade level now has a Chromebook Mobile Lab. This year, Heron added a portable Science Lab and its staff added a science expert — a Teacher on Special Assignment.  Heron’s middle-school schedule has been modified to offer more STEAM-aligned electives, and its art program was strengthened by adding a parent-led Art Docent program for all K-6 classrooms.

Two Rivers’ Gold Ribbon stems partly from inclusive and collaborative instruction practices that are paying dividends for all students, particularly English Learners and those with special needs. “It is not just one teacher doing one thing; it is a team of educators working with a supportive school community to get the best from our students,” the school’s Gold Ribbon application says. Two Rivers’ Special Education teacher meets in rotating, grade-level collaborative teams each week to plan for instruction and support with teachers. Special-needs students receive a variety of service models — pull out, push in, consultation and co-teaching. English Learners benefit from WIN time – Whatever I Need – to improve performance on essential standards. All students receive consistency in strategies and expectations.

Heron and Two Rivers will receive their Gold Ribbons at a regional awards ceremony in coming weeks.