SAN GABRIEL, CA – Gabrielino High School has been named a 2017 California Gold Ribbon School for its efforts to increase English learner graduation rates and improve college eligibility for Hispanic students.

The Gold Ribbon, California’s highest academic designation, was created in as a substitute for the California Distinguished Schools Program while the state transitions to a new academic accountability tool. The designation is reserved for middle and high schools this year.

“This honor validates the work of the school faculty and administration,” Gabrielino Principal Sharron Heinrich said. “It recognizes our efforts to offer innovative, practical and data-driven programs that ensure all of our students are succeeding.”

English learner improvements grew out of a collaboration between two Gabrielino High teams created to study ways to improve instruction.

A data team charged with studying district benchmarks, state tests and case studies to identify program strengths and obstacles discovered that English learners lagged in completing college requirement courses. Students, especially long-term English learners, were unable to obtain social science credits until an advanced language course was completed.

To improve access, a campus English language development (ELD) team constructed a program that allows English learners to earn college requirement credit before moving to integrated English courses.

The new classes, such as Introduction to Government and Economics, will fulfill the college requirements while also advancing English learning.

As a result, the percentage of English learner non-graduates dropped from 76 percent in 2014-15 to 63 percent in 2015-16.

Gabrielino’s data team also worked to narrow the achievement gap between Asian and Hispanic students by examining student grades in core content areas and reviewing teacher gradebooks.

Their findings led Gabrielino to eliminate non-college preparatory freshman and sophomore science classes and replace them with college-preparatory biology and chemistry classes.

The result was a 12 percent boost in Hispanic students graduating with UC and CSU eligibility since 2013-14.

“Our District encourages students to achieve the very best, and this honor acknowledges the continual effort in promoting that mission,” Superintendent Dr. John Pappalardo said. “Congratulations to the hardworking staff and educators at Gabrielino for creating award-winning opportunities to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education.”

Gabrielino’s Behavioral Response to Intervention team was also recognized for its efforts to close the achievement gap by decreasing the number of suspension and truancy rates for Hispanic students.

The team observed attendance data and conducted individual student case studies with behavior or mental health challenges to identify a connection between attendance and behavioral issues. Their findings slashed suspension days by 33 percent.

“The staff and administrators at Gabrielino High School demonstrate the exemplary achievements in creating programs that boost student achievement,” SGUSD Board President Andrew Ammon said. “Congratulations to the Gabrielino faculty and students.”