Riverside County Office of Education Recognized with Top Statewide Educational Honor – Golden Bell Award

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) announced that the Riverside County Office of Education’s (RCOE) College Connections has been selected as a recipient of the state’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award.  The Golden Bell Award, now in its 34th year, recognizes public school programs that are innovative and sustainable, have a demonstrated effect on improving the academic achievement of all students, and reflect the depth and breadth of the education programs necessary to address students’ changing needs.

The highly respected Golden Bell Awards will be presented at a special ceremony during CSBA’s Annual Education Conference in San Diego on Saturday, December 7, 2013 from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.

The RCOE is being recognized for its College Connections Program, which has been in place since 2009.  Riverside County Superintendent Kenneth Young noted “The College Connections Program is designed to provide individual academic and transitional support to students in foster care, from neglected backgrounds and who are at risk of failure.  They’re attending RCOE’s community schools, Cal-SAFE program, juvenile detention facilities and foster group homes, and the CBK Dropout recovery program throughout Riverside County.”

The RCOE, in partnership with Riverside City College (RCC) engages at risk youth ages 16-21 and identifies appropriate pathways for students to complete their high school education and transition into viable post-secondary options.  Students served through RCOE’s College Connections have not succeeded in traditional school settings; they are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities, are parenting teens, are on probation, are in foster group home placement, are expellees, and/or are recovered drop-outs.  Most come to RCOE credit deficient, with multiple suspensions, high transient rates, and are on a course to drop out of school. Through College Connections, students receive academic resources, linkage to Community Colleges, career mapping with identified Career and Technical training, and job placement.  Ongoing individualized follow-up occurs to ensure the student’s success in obtaining their goals

Over 1,040 RCOE students have received direct educational and transitional services, and 77% have transitioned into post-secondary education, directly into the workforce, the military, or career training programs.  Its highly individualized approach prevents students fall between the cracks, and ensures they receive personalized, targeted support throughout all aspects of the transition process.  A recent editorial in the Press Enterprise congratulated RCOE’s College Connections Program “for not giving up on students who have not given up on themselves” and for “helping turn many at-risk young people into productive citizens.”  Our incarcerated students say, “You came back to help me when others wouldn’t.”

Experts from school districts and county offices of education made up the 11-member judging panel that reviewed the written entries and made the initial recommendations for the awards.  On-site validators assessed the programs in action.  This year’s award will be given to school districts and county offices of education that are helping students achieve through after-school programs, mentoring, instructional interventions, scheduling changes, use of data and other innovations.

CSBA is the non-profit education association representing the elected school board members who govern public school districts.  With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school governing to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well-being of the state’s more than six million school age children.