East LA Charter School Earns National Blue Ribbon Honor

KIPP Raíces Academy in East LA is among the top performing schools in the country.

Thirty-three California schools were recognized as 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education, based on their overall academic excellence and progress in closing student achievement gaps.

Out of the 33 schools in the state, one school in particular stands out: KIPP Raíces Academy in East Los Angeles.

"It's especially significant that we receive this award, not because we are a high-performing school from a certain community," said KIPP Raíces Academy School Leader Chelsea Zegarski. "It's because we are a high-performing school period."

KIPP Raíces Academy, a tuition-free public charter elementary school, was named an Exemplary High Performing School, an honor measured by state and national assessment test scores.

"It's a huge honor," Zegarski said. "It's a testament to all the hard work students, family and team members have done in our eight years of existence."

KIPP Raíces Academy was also recognized as a California Distinguished School June 2014.

The school emphasizes all day school, believing that the extra hours helps students to learn.

"We have unrelenting high expectations from students," Zegarski said. "We call them achievers."

Zegarski said the school instills the belief in students that college is a viable option — that it's not about whether attending is an option, it's about where they're attending college.

The school also encourages strong relationships with family members and focuses on hiring the right faculty and staff, Zegarski said. There are home visits made for all incoming students.

Currently, KIPP Raíces serves 547 kindergartners, first, second, third and fourth graders. Ninety-six percent of students are Hispanic/Latino and two percent are African-American. Ninety percent (91) of students qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized 335 elementary, middle and high schools — 285 public and 50 private — nationwide, an honor about 8,000 other U.S. schools hold.

Blue Ribbon Schools are recognized in one of two categories based on student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates.

Along with Exemplary High Performing Schools, Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools are the highest in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups over the past five years.

"This honor recognizes your students' accomplishments and the hard work and dedication that went into their success," Duncan said in a video message to the awardees. "Your journey has taught you collaboration, intentional instruction and strong relationships in school and with your community. You represent excellence: in vision, in implementation and in results — and we want to learn as much as we can from you."

The schools will be honored in a ceremony Nov. 9-10 in Washington, D.C.

Blue Ribbon Schools in California (Local ones are in bold):

  • Santa Clarita, Academy of the Canyons
  • Alameda, Alameda Science and Technology Institute
  • Redondo Beach, Alta Vista Elementary School
  • Tiburon, Bel Aire Elementary School
  • Moraga, Campolindo High School
  • Chino Hills, Country Springs Elementary School
  • San Diego, Deer Canyon Elementary School
  • Orinda, Del Rey Elementary School
  • Mountain View, Frank L. Huff Elementary School
  • Manhattan Beach, Grand View Elementary School
  • Lafayette, Happy Valley Elementary School
  • Chino Hills, Heights Christian Schools-Chino Hills Campus
  • Dublin, James Dougherty Elementary School
  • San Jose, James Franklin Smith Elementary School
  • Los Angeles, KIPP Raíces Academy
  • La Cañada, La Cañada High School
  • Riverside, Lake Mathews Elementary School
  • Valencia, Legacy Christian Academy
  • Fresno, Manchester Gate Elementary School
  • Santa Ana, Middle College High School
  • Stockton, Middle College High School at San Joaquin Delta College
  • Oakland, Montclair Elementary School
  • Palos Verdes Estates, Montemalaga Elementary School
  • Long Beach, Naples Bayside Academy
  • San Ramon, Neil A. Armstrong Elementary School
  • Irvine, New Horizon School
  • El Dorado Hills, Oak Meadow Elementary School
  • Solana Beach, Santa Fe Christian Middle School
  • Lancaster, SOAR High School
  • Pleasanton, Vintage Hills Elementary School
  • San Marino, W.L. Valentine Elementary School
  • Grass Valley, William & Marian Ghidotti High School
  • Agoura Hills, Yerba Buena Elementary School
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