Fifteen Schools Honored with America’s Best Urban Schools Awards

SDSU’s National Center for Urban School Transformation Presents Awards to 15 High-Performing Schools

Patrick Henry Preparatory accepts gold certificate
The National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) at San Diego State University (SDSU) awarded fifteen schools as winners of its 2018 America’s Best Urban Schools Award. The schools were recognized and featured at the America’s Best Urban Schools Symposium in San Diego, CA.

To compete for the award, schools had to serve predominantly low-income students; yet the schools had to meet a long list of student performance criteria, including high achievement scores, high attendance rates, low suspension rates, and high graduation rates for every demographic group of students. Each racial/ethnic/income group served had to demonstrate rates of academic performance that exceeded the performance for all students in the state. The schools could not use selective admission criteria to screen out less capable students.

Finalists were drawn from a large pool of applicants that included many schools that have earned recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools, National Title I Distinguished Schools, and winners of many other state and national awards. A review team of experienced educators and researchers (including leaders from previous winning schools) visited each finalist school and observed classrooms and school activities; interviewed students, teachers, parents, and administrators; and examined evidence of student work. The strongest 15 schools were selected as winners of the 2018 America’s Best Urban Schools Award. NCUST found that these schools provided all students rigorous and balanced curricula in science, mathematics, English, social studies, the arts, and other subject areas; effective and engaging instruction that motivated students to maximize their efforts and excel beyond conventional expectations; and a positive culture that helped all students feel capable, respected, and valued.

“The winning schools have attained a level of achievement more typically seen in schools that serve very affluent communities,” said Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the NCUST. He further explained, “In these impressive schools, outstanding teachers and leaders maintain very high expectations for all of their students. At the same time, they create learning environments that enable students to meet their high expectations. These schools exemplify how otherwise typical urban schools can transform students’ lives.”

Each winning school received cash prizes, banners, certificates, bumper stickers, and an opportunity to share their story with other educators. This year’s America’s Best Urban Schools award winners are:

Gold Winners

El Sol Science and Arts Academy
Santa Ana School District
Santa Ana, California

Mary & Frank Yturria Elementary School
Brownsville Independent School District
Brownsville, Texas

Patrick Henry Preparatory Academy P.S./I.S. 171 
NYC School District 4
New York, NY

The Middle College at UNCG
Guilford County Schools
Greensboro, North Carolina

Silver Winners

Kenmore Elementary School
Baldwin Park Unified School District
Baldwin Park, California

Nestor Language Academy Charter School
South Bay Union School District
San Diego, California

Solomon P. Ortiz Elementary School
Brownsville Independent School District
Brownsville, Texas

Westcliff Elementary School
Fort Worth Independent School District
Fort Worth, Texas

Wildflower Elementary School
Harrison School District 2
Colorado Springs, Colorado

World Languages Institute
Fort Worth Independent School District
Fort Worth, Texas

Young Men’s Leadership Academy
Fort Worth Independent School District
Fort Worth, Texas

Bronze Winners

Keller Dual Immersion Middle School
Long Beach Unified School District
Long Beach, California

Fay Herron Elementary School
Clark County Schools
North Las Vegas, Nevada

Bonnie Brae Elementary School
Fort Worth Independent School District
Fort Worth, Texas

Dr.  Cash Elementary School
San Benito Consolidated Independent School District
San Benito, Texas

For the first time, NCUST (in collaboration with SDSU’s Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education) invited dual language academies to compete as a separate category. These academies meet other NCUST award criteria; however, they also help students learn another language and culture. Keller Dual Immersion Middle, El Sol Science and Arts Academy, and Nestor Language Academies were the first schools to be recognized as winners in this category.


Also, at the symposium, four high school winners from prior years (O’Farrell High School in San Diego, James Pace Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas, Eastlake High School in El Paso’s Socorro Independent School District, and Revere High School in Boston’s Revere Public Schools) were invited to present. The four schools are featured in a new book entitled Five Practices for Improving the Success of Latino Students: A Guide for Secondary School Leaders. Leaders from the four high schools shared how their schools are helping Latino students from low-income families graduate well prepared for college and careers.

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