Santa Monica’s Edison Language Academy has been recognized by the California Department of Education as a 2020 California Distinguished School.

Edison, which also earned the award in 2018, was one of the 324 elementary schools that received the honor in the state this year, according to district officials, who said the Distinguished Schools program recognizes schools based on their performance and progress on a multitude of state indicators. Elementary schools and middle and high schools are recognized in alternate years; therefore, awardees hold the title for two years.

Of the many factors that the school was evaluated on, district staff cited the performance of Edison’s third-, fourth- and fifth-graders on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exams as one of the key reasons why it was able to once again be named a California Distinguished School.

This year marks Edison’s 34th year as a dual immersion school, meaning all attending students learn to speak, read and write in both English and Spanish, according to Edison Principal Lori Orum. “As you probably know, we have a really excellent school district so all the classrooms in our school district look pretty enriched, but the difference in a dual immersion classroom is the kids are getting immersed in Spanish very heavily for the first few years.”

Using a 90-10 model, students at the local Title 1 school study the same curriculum and content as their peers do at other public elementary schools across California, but 90 percent of Edison’s instruction from transitional kindergarten through first grade is in Spanish, Orum said. “But we are also developing English at each step so these kids end up having like a double block of literacy since they’re getting sort of twice as much literacy, reading and writing instruction.”

And while the testing results are something to be proud of, Orum is quick to tout the long-term effects of the program like the increased rates of high school and college graduates.

“And then there’s a lot of socio-cultural competence that you’re also building,” Orum said as she detailed how research has shown that kids tend to perform better in a diverse group.

“If you look at the trajectory over many years, you can see the direction that we’re going in has been trending up for quite a while,” Orum said, expressing how proud she is of every Edison staff member — each of whom have continuously proven to be dedicated and determined to provide every student with a pathway to success.

“We really had to work hard to prove that you could make great things happen for kids in this model, and we figured out how to do it and it’s lovely to get the recognition instead of having to defend your test scores or your program,” Orum said.

“We’re lucky to be in a district that’s made this kind of investment over the years and has provided us with the infrastructure to succeed,” she added. “You know, I always say, ‘If we can’t make use of the model, nobody can,’ because we have all the advantages going for us.”

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