Four school districts and four school sites in San Mateo County received a California Pivotal Practice Award (CAPP) from the California Department of Education. The award program temporarily replaced the state’s Distinguished Schools Award program, which recognizes school achievements using assessments that were suspended during the pandemic. Instead, the CAPP program highlights innovative practices that were implemented during the 2020-21 school year, when schools were offering distance learning or transitioning back to in-person learning.

Award winners completed an online application highlighting an innovative practice in one of the four target areas: student engagement, distribution of technology, nutrition services, and social emotional well-being of students.

Belmont-Redwood Shores School District
The Belmont-Redwood Shores School District coordinated counseling services to improve social and emotional well-being. This included providing universal and individual supports; offering counseling services through One Life counseling, middle school counselors, and mental health therapists; expanding the number of fully licensed school counselors on campus; and setting the groundwork for using a social emotional screener in the 2021-22 school year.

Menlo Park City School District
During the 2020-21 school year, the Menlo Park City School District focused on addressing students’ health and wellness, building relationships with parents and community agencies, and supporting social-emotional learning. It began a districtwide multidisciplinary COVID-19 task force to implement robust health and safety measures, guided families in transitioning back to in-person learning in fall 2020, and introduced a new social-emotional learning curriculum to support school communities.

Portola Valley School District
The Portola Valley School District helped its students navigate through the 2020-21 school year by bringing their vulnerable learners back on campus early on in the school year and providing homework clubs, one-to-one and small group intervention, and in-home coaching support. These efforts were rewarded with increased student engagement and higher academic achievement for our vulnerable student groups, as reflected in school grades and 2021 CAASPP testing.

Ravenswood City School District
Ravenswood was recognized for its innovative technology distribution initiative to support students during distance learning in the 2020-21 school year. This included partnering with local nonprofit StreetCode Academy to offer a real-time, bilingual distance learning helpdesk for students, families, and teachers. The district also provided online basic computer training for families to help them navigate distance learning.

Redwood Shores Elementary School
Redwood Shores Elementary School in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District received a Pivotal Practice Award for its efforts to increase student engagement, cooperation, and independence, particularly for fourth- and fifth-grade students. The school’s leadership used data, virtual tools and technology, and effective relationship-building to improve its practices and delivered strategic professional development to provide responsive student support. 

Rocketship Redwood City Prep Charter School
Rocketship Redwood City Prep established a Care Corps program to provide wraparound services to students and families. Through the program, staff contacted families every day and followed up with families who needed support. The program helped students access technology and nutrition services and grow their social and emotional health by ensuring their families had what they needed so that each student could succeed in school.

Monte Verde Elementary School
South San Francisco Unified School District’s Monte Verde Elementary School leveraged technology to provide regular support for students, families, and one another. Staff maintained student engagement through daily Zoom lessons and special activities and created virtual opportunities for them to connect and form positive relationships. Teachers also used enhanced working stations, which allowed them to deliver instruction as close to normal as possible.

Ponderosa Elementary School
Ponderosa Elementary School in South San Francisco Unified School District used a robust set of tools to continue providing a full educational program during the 2020-21 school year. This included transitioning to online registration; using teacher pages to inform families of office hours, daily activities, and instruction schedules; implementing differentiated instruction, daily reading groups, hands-on activities, and other strategies to engage students in distance learning; and recognizing positive behavior. 

A total of 727 schools and 121 school districts across the state also received the award. With statewide testing back in place, the California Department of Education anticipates transitioning back to the California Distinguished Schools Award Program in 2023.