SCOTTS VALLEY -- Two Santa Cruz County middle schools have joined the ranks of dozens of others across the state by receiving a "Schools to Watch -- Taking Center Stage" designation. The nod from Sacramento recognizes their high academic performance and supportive educational models.

In a press release issued Thursday by the California Department of Education, the middle schools in San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley were named among the 12 newly designated schools spread across seven counties. This year, San Lorenzo Valley Middle School's API standardized test score was 843, according to Tina Jung, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education. That's up 46 points since 2007, while the socioeconomically disadvantaged student population has gained 82 points, according to the release.

Meanwhile, Scotts Valley Middle School's API score rose 16 points to 918. The highest possible score is 1,000.

"We're so excited and just thrilled that Scotts Valley Middle School -- its students, faculty and parents and the whole learning community -- will be recognized for all its great work," said the school's principal, Mary Lonhart.

She largely credited the school's Academy programs for obtaining the designation. The school has seven academies, and students in each group are expected to meet or exceed the same high standards in English, mathematics, history and science.

There are 48 schools with the "Schools to Watch" designation. They will be recognized at the California Middle Grades Alliance annual luncheon Feb. 28, as well as the California League of Middle Schools Conference March 1-3, both held in Sacramento.


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The schools will serve as models and host visitors from around the state and world who are looking for practices to replicate. In order to retain the designation, each school is re-evaluated every three years, according to the state Department of Education.

The announcement comes two months after officials with the Scotts Valley Unified School District learned both the middle and high school were also in the running for California Distinguished School awards. Those awards are separate from the designations announced Thursday, Jung said. They will be announced in March.

Follow Sentinel reporter Kimberly White on Twitter at Twitter.com/kwhite95066