Oak Park High School is nominated as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School

One out of 35 schools in California to be selected

For the first time since 1993, Oak Park High School has been nominated as a prestigious National Blue Ribbon School and is officially recognized as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School.

Only 35 schools from California are nominated yearly for the award, and this includes private and public schools as well as elementary, middle and high schools. To be picked from such a large pull of schools is significant.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Principal Kevin Buchanan said. “Especially now, given that not much of the news we get is good news.”

There are two award categories within the National Blue Ribbon School Award: Exemplary High Performing and Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing. The awards are based on multiple criteria including improvement on state assessments across all demographic groups, College and Career Readiness, graduation rate, and the progress seen in test results over time. In 1993 OPHS won the Exemplary High Performing award.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “‘Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing’ schools have made the greatest advances (top 15%) in closing subgroup achievement gaps in English and mathematics over the past three to five years, measured by state assessments.”

For Buchanan, the award is worth more than the potential opportunity to attend an award ceremony in Washington D.C., which is where all of the award winners attend to receive their award and recognition.

“We have high achievement across all groups and demographics, which includes students with disabilities, students of color, English language learners, and all the different ways that students are classified,” Buchanan said. “We’ve closed the gap between traditionally lower achieving groups and high achieving groups… This aligns with our efforts with equity and access… This validates the work that we’ve done to make sure that every student is achieving.”

Buchanan is in the process of assembling a writing team of teachers to draft Oak Park High School’s official application, which must be submitted by April 9, 2021. Applications from each of the 35 California schools will be used to select the school that receives the award.

“To win in this category is kind of poignant; it’s kind of special and sweet because it’s actually something we’ve been working on,” Buchanan said.