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News Item: Homepage

Empresa Elementary Named CA Distinguished School

photo credit: Jocelyn Kuduk


Empresa Elementary Named “California Distinguished School.”

Vista Unified School To Be Honored For Innovative Approach To Mathematics



When the California Department of Education released their list of 2018 California Distinguished Schools, Vista Unified’s Empresa Elementary School was thrilled to find themselves among the 33 San Diego County schools honored. The school will be honored at a statewide ceremony on May 4th in Anaheim.


The school’s application for the award focused on how Empresa has shifted their approach to teaching mathematics, encouraging students to not merely “do” math, but to understand it. The shift has delivered significant increases in student assessments in math across all age, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.


Explains Principal Cheree McKean, “At Empresa we continuously examine data and best practices to create opportunities for student achievement. For example, the transformation in the way we taught math began with an approach called, Number Talks, in every classroom.” Through Number Talks, teachers engage students in mental math activities designed to encourage them to think differently. Number Talks also requires students to begin sharing the way they think about math.



In addition to the in-classroom approach, teachers also examined their approach to homework, its impact, and what students were being asked to do. Explains McKean, “Our teachers began providing a spiral review of past math concepts. Now, homework provides students with the chance to re-explore concepts multiple times throughout the year, further developing their foundation for deeper understanding.”


Not only did students grow in their understanding and ability of mathematics, but teachers progressed as well. In order to teach math differently, teachers undertook extensive professional development in new teaching methods and approaches, fostering an environment of collaboration and celebration. “We found that teachers wanted to improve not just their ability to teach a math lesson, but they also wanted to develop their own understanding about the “why” of mathematics.”


In a culture shifting from accepting comments such as, “I’m not good at math” to developing a climate in which math competence is valued, Empresa realizes the importance of developing students strong in mathematics through a balanced program of concepts, procedures, and problem solving. “We believe the data supports our effort in creating a balanced math program.”


According to the California Department of Education websites, “Schools selected for the Distinguished School Award demonstrate significant gains in narrowing the achievement gap.” The site goes on to explain that awardees hold the title of Distinguished School for a two year period. More information on the award can be found at the CDE website.

Posted by: Lisa Contreras, District Admin, Vista Unified School District Published:4/11/18
Audience: Homepage and Homepage