Whitney off to a 'distinguished' start

After just four years of existence, Whitney High named Distinguished School
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Whitney High School recently joined the ranks with the other Rocklin schools designated as distinguished. Debra Hawkins, Whitney High School principal, said it was a welcome reward for their hard work, and especially sweet because of the new process implemented this year. Around 10:30 a.m. on April 1, Hawkins said she received a call from California Department of Education Superintendent Jack O’Connell congratulating the school on becoming a Distinguished School. Less than half an hour later, Hawkins was on the PA system announcing the news to the entire student body and staff, she said. Many of the students proudly began chanting the Wildcat cheer, Hawkins said. The application process began last fall and this year, designation was not solely based on Academic Performance Index scores, but also on two signature practices used at each school. Going from ground zero to distinguished school in less than four year is a big honor, Hawkins said, and the students also understand the importance of the designation. One senior student already asked if the seal would be on his high school diploma, Hawkins said. Every other year, middle schools and high schools have the opportunity to earn Distinguished School status, while elementary schools are recognized in the alternating years. According to the California Department of Education Web site, assessment results are measured by No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress, API and closing the achievement gap. “All of the population (of the school) you serve has to have shown upward mobility,” Hawkins said. Each school also had to show two signature practices the school implements. Whitney’s practices discussed in the application were making sure all students receive an equal and equitable education as well as a focus on Algebra one. The days when students claim to have an easy or hard teacher are long gone for Whitney High students. The school has implemented a system where each teacher within a subject uses the same lesson plan, tests and sometimes homework, Hawkins said. This has helped students, who can seek help from any of the teachers teaching the course, not just the teacher the student has for the class, Hawkins said. The second practice was teaching a shadow math class. Whitney students are on an alternate day schedule, but students never go a day without a math class. Hawkins said it’s like doing double duty on math, with a math class where teachers re-teach the concepts. “We’ve really worked hard with Algebra one,” Hawkins said. “We believe it has helped all students.” At a recent school board meeting, Kevin Brown congratulated Whitney, and welcomed the school to the cluster of already distinguished schools within Rocklin Unified School District. Whitney High School was among six schools in Placer County to receive the honor. An awards ceremony for all California Distinguished Schools recognized this year will be held May 19 in Anaheim.