Riverside County Office of Education wins two Golden Bell Awards

In 2010, the Riverside County Office of Education received two prestigious Golden Bell Awards from the California School Boards Association. One of the awards was presented to a program that helps high school dropouts complete their educations, and the other was presented to a program that significantly increases achievement among special education students.

“We have pledged to help all students succeed in school, and be well prepared for college and workforce,” Young said. “These two outstanding programs are great examples of the work that our RCOE teachers, administrators and employees perform each day to help us reach that goal.”

The RCOE winners were honored during the 31st Annual Golden Bell Awards program December 4, 2010, in San Francisco as part of the annual California School Boards Association (CSBA) Annual Education Conference. The Golden Bell Award program promotes excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs in California school districts and county offices of education.

RCOE was honored for Come Back Kids (CBK) Dropout Recovery Program. The goal of CBK is to reduce the number of dropouts in Riverside County by providing teachers and classrooms county-wide that are designed specifically to help dropouts re-enter public education and graduate. In addition, RCOE works with many agencies, including Work Force Development, Community Colleges, County Probation, Foster Youth Centers, community agencies, and local school districts to provide other opportunities for students in the program. In its first year, CBK graduated 26 students and by its second year quadrupled that statistic. Students are served from any of the 23 school districts at 14 sites across the county. Students who meet all graduation requirements established by the Riverside County Board of Education or pass the General Education Development Test (GED) walk in a yearly graduation ceremony. Many CBK graduates are the first in their family to earn a high school diploma.

RCOE’s second award was for the Implementation of Professional Learning Communities to Support Students with Severe Disabilities. This program served approximately 1,300 students in the RCOE Special Education Unit with the most severe disabilities, including cognitive and multiple disabilities, autism, vision and hearing impairments, and emotional disturbance. To meet the goal of high academic achievement, RCOE turned to a model known as Professional Learning Communities (PLC). In this model, school administrators and staff unite in their commitment to student learning, adopt a shared vision, work collaboratively, visit and review each other’s classrooms, and participate in shared decision making. The PLC model allowed RCOE to deliver high quality instruction designed to meet the unique academic, physical, behavioral, and social needs of special education students. Teachers worked in teams and met once a month. Since 2005, student proficiency rates had increased 53% in English Language Arts from 22% proficient in 2005 to 73% proficient in 2009. RCOE students had similar results in math with a 52% proficiency increase from 32% in 2005 to 62% in 2009. The RCOE Special Education PLC model was successfully replicated in other districts and county offices including Palm Springs USD, Coachella Valley USD, and Butte County Office of Education where increased student achievement was linked to the use of this process.