Petaluma school named one of 162 California Distinguished Schools

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A Petaluma charter school was named by the state this week as a California Distinguished School.

Petaluma Accelerated Charter School was the sole Sonoma County school on the California Department of Education’s list of 162 middle and high schools to receive the honor.

Principal Ani Larson said the 108 seventh- and eighth-graders at the school focus on a rigorous academic environment and project-based learning. Seventh-graders currently are writing academic papers on historic women in science and their impacts — combining social studies, language arts and science into the project.

“The teachers and the families really make the program,” said Larson, who is in her first year as principal at the school.

The state selected the distinguished schools using performance indicators, including test scores and suspension and graduations rates. Schools are assessed by student performance over two consecutive years for how the achievement gap is closed.

Last year, 95 percent of Petaluma Accelerated Charter students met or exceeded state English standards and 94 percent met or exceeded math standards, significantly higher than the statewide and countywide averages.

“Thanks to teachers, administrators, classified employees, and parents working together, these schools meet the needs of all of their students, provide high-quality educational experiences, and put kids on a pathway to great careers,” said Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of public instruction.

In addition to student performance, the state also looked at school climate, from conflict resolution to positive behavior intervention, according to a news release.

Students at the Petaluma charter school work on robotics, participate in math competitions and are involved in local film festivals. The school also hosts a salsa festival and requires students to take Spanish classes, Larson said.

“We really celebrate diversity at our school,” Larson said.

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