McKinley Elementary School in Santa Monica is one of three Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District schools to be recognized as a California Distinguished School this year.

The other two district schools to receive the honor are Webster Elementary School and Point Dume Marine Science School in Malibu, joining the 484 public elementary schools statewide that were named a distinguished school.

“We are extremely proud of our staff for demonstrating educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap,” district Superintendent Tim Cuneo said. “The principal, teachers, and staff are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the success of all students.”

“Our McKinley community is exceptionally proud today,” said McKinley Principal Irene Gonzalez. “McKinley students bring so much enthusiasm and love for learning.

“Teachers and staff are innovative and passionate about their profession and know that great teaching leads to successful students. This recognition is due to the collaboration of students, staff, and families.”

State Superintendent Jack O’Connell called each school principal to personally convey the good news.

“It is an honor to recognize the schools, and the students, parents, teachers, and administrators who helped earn this most prestigious distinction,” O’Connell said in a statement.

“The 2010 California Distinguished Schools have been selected because of their academic excellence and for narrowing achievement gaps. These schools have persevered despite state budget cutbacks that have cut deeply into the budgets of local school districts.

“I encourage educators throughout our state to review the signature practices that distinguished schools are using to improve student achievement.”

The California School Recognition Program identifies and honors the state’s most exemplary and inspiring public schools with the California Distinguished School Award. Schools were identified for eligibility on the basis of their Academic Performance Index (API) and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results, which are the state and federal accountability models, respectively.

The applicants were also identified by their success in narrowing the achievement gap between higher-performing and lower-performing students. All applicants underwent a stringent selection process conducted by the California Department of Education with the help of many educators from across the state.