This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa or Facebook.com/TheresaHarringtonBANG.

May 2

Congratulations to the nearly 50 elementary campuses in the East Bay that have been named 2014 California Distinguished Schools.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson announced this week that 22 Alameda County schools and two dozen Contra Costa County schools are among 424 elementary campuses statewide designated as distinguished, based on innovative strategies for narrowing the achievement gap.

"I applaud these strong, thriving schools that are making such impressive strides in preparing their students for continued success," Torlakson said in a prepared statement. "This award is well-deserved by these school communities for their enduring dedication to high standards, hard work, and unwavering support."

Here is a list of East Bay 2014 California Distinguished Schools by county and district.

ALAMEDA COUNTY

Alameda Unified: Edison Elementary


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Dublin Unified: Harold William Kolb Elementary (also award for Exemplary Physical Activity and Nutrition Program)

Fremont Unified: Ardenwood, Fred E. Weibel, James Leitch, John Gomes, Joshua Chadbourne, Mission San Jose, Mission Valley and Niles elementary schools

New Haven Unified: Pioneer Elementary

Newark Unified: James L. Bunker and John F. Kennedy elementary schools

Oakland Unified: Achieve Academy, Montclair Elementary and Think College Now

Pleasanton Unified: Donlon, Henry P. Mohr, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Vintage Hills and Walnut Grove elementary schools

Sunol Glen Unified: Sunol Glen Elementary

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

Lafayette Elementary: Lafayette Elementary

Mt. Diablo Unified: Mt. Diablo, Sequoia, Silverwood, Strandwood, Valle Verde and Walnut Acres elementary schools

Orinda Union: Del Rey, Glorietta, Sleepy Hollow and Wagner Ranch elementary schools

San Ramon Valley Unified: Bollinger Canyon, Coyote Creek, Golden View, Greenbrook, Hidden Hills, John Baldwin, Live Oak, Neil A. Armstrong, Rancho Romero, Sycamore Valley, Tassajara Hills and Vista Grande elementary schools

Walnut Creek School District: Walnut Heights Elementary

The strategies and practices that helped earn these schools their recognition will be posted online later this year. The achievements of past campuses named as California Distinguished Schools are at www3.cde.ca.gov/signaturepractices.

Each school is visited by a team of local educators. In Contra Costa County, a team of 19 educators from the Contra Costa County Office of Education, along with 18 district administrators and four retired district administrators visited the sites.

Greg Santiago, principal of Hanna Ranch Elementary in Richmond, named a distinguished school in 2012, was one of the administrators on the site visits. As part of its academic strategy, the school analyzed test data to provide extra support to low-performing students, and tried to close the achievement gap between high-achieving Asian and Filipino students and lower-achieving African-American and Latino students by using culturally relevant teaching methods.

One such teaching method is "call and response," which allows students to chant responses to teachers' prompts instead of raising their hands to be acknowledged. Santiago heads up a school equity team, which walks through classrooms with a checklist that includes these questions: "Are students engaged? Are they participating? Is there bell-to-bell instruction?"

I met Santiago last month during a ride-along with Hercules School Resource Officer Greg Sanchez, who told me when we arrived: "This principal has got it down."

What are the strategies and practices at your school?