The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


MSJ Recognized as One of 162 Distinguished schools in CA

By Staff Writer Thomas Chen 

On February 25, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that MSJ was one of 162 middle schools and high schools in CA that earned a 2019 Distinguished School award under the CA Distinguished Schools Program.

According to Principal Zack Larsen, “[This award] recognizes our top tier students who are achieving high levels but it also looks at students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged [such as] our foster youth or our English learner students.” Programs like Writer’s Block, Target Success, and STEM Success that offer help to students in various academic areas were also considered in the process.

MSJ has a history of receiving this award and other related awards. Larsen said, “At every opportunity to apply for a National Blue Ribbon or California Distinguished Award, we always apply. Historically, our application is always accepted and our school is  recognized.”

Besides MSJ, three other FUSD Schools — Kennedy High School, American High School, and Hopkins Junior High School — have received this award. FUSD Superintendent Kim Wallace said, “Recognized schools can be submitted to National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools Program. We actually had two blue ribbon schools go to the national [stage]  last November: Hopkins Junior High and Gomes Elementary. They were both recognized as two of 300 schools that had outstanding achievement.”

In addition, FUSD was one of 18 districts out of around 1000 districts in CA to be recognized as an exemplary district. Wallace said, “the reason we were given that award is because of the work we did to increase our homeless student graduation rate … [and] help them be more successful.”

Larsen also hopes to continue improving the MSJ student experience. He said, “We know from studies and research that  the overall workload creates the biggest impediments to learning and most stress students experience. He said that the solution to reducing workload may involve anything from implementing a block schedule to investigating whether tests and quizzes are the best way to measure learning.”

Graphic by Graphics Editor Lucia Li

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