California Distinguished School is an award given by the California State Board of Education to public schools all over our state that offer outstanding, inspiring, quality educational programs. Roughly 5-10% of California public schools receive this annual honor. Only 5-10%!
A big reason we earned this award at SET High is because of our gains in narrowing achievement gaps. Our test scores shot up in recent years and year-over-year our students are succeeding in new ways. In fact, we are the only high school in the San Diego Unified School District to earn this distinction in 2019.
It’s An Honor to be Nominated
The process of receiving this award is involved. It’s awarded in even years to elementary schools and to secondary schools, like ours, in odd years. The honor of being a California Distinguished School is given for 10 years.. Every two years, the process begins again, with the metrics and dashboard requirements changing.
This award reinforces how we are succeeding as a tuition-free public charter high school serving grades 9-12. Academic success isn’t all of it though, the California Distinguished School award also tracks teaching, learning, and collaboration. They’re mindful of our school’s efforts with professional development and positive behavior intervention. And for us — it’s about our secret sauce.
Our Secret Sauce
As principal Neil McCurdy likes to say — we have the secret sauce. Our engaged teachers, engaged students and engaged parents are what enable us to thrive. That three-legged-stool is what makes us so successful as a school. It’s true, and something we do not take for granted.
“We are honored to be one of the few schools in San Diego to be named a California Distinguished School. Our students and staff have done amazing work and it is gratifying to have their accomplishments recognized,” Neil McCurdy, Principal
Our Passion Projects and Community of Acceptance are what set us apart as a high school — and are the leading reason for this award. At SET, we ensure that all students have access to a safe and effective learning environment. Our Community of Acceptance approach not only helps students find their own place in our academic environment, but also improves students’ academic achievement and attendance.
We do not tolerate bullying, and we offer a number of clubs where students can be a part of a support group. Students and faculty at SET High practice full acceptance. We do not just practice tolerance, as tolerating is not fully accepting. We are an inclusive and accepting learning environment for everyone.
Our Passion Project program was launched in the Fall 2016 to systematically engage students in discovering their passion whether it be an academic subject, a much loved hobby, a dream for a business, an expression of talent or the drive to answer the question, “what if…” Passion Projects are an outgrowth of our school’s entrepreneurial mindset.
SET High’s Passion Project program stands apart. All students from incoming freshmen, to newly transferred juniors, to graduating seniors — ponder what they are passionate for, and design a project that taps into those dreams. Last but not least, our students share their Passion Projects with a variety of invested and supportive SET peers and stakeholders.
Outstanding in our Field
We are humbled by this honor and reminded constantly of how what we do, as a school and community, matters. Our Passion Projects, leadership classes and commitment to social responsibility keep us engaged and striving.
We want every SET High student to pursue an education that is personal and meaningful. And because we are a small school — we can nimbly accommodate every student as a unique learner. We know our students for who they are and how they best learn.
Our small classes reinforce camaraderie with classmates and allow each student’s unique talents to shine. We model affirming mindsets — so every SET High student recognizes their passions, and feels how their confidence matters.
“Students choose to attend SET High, enticed by its small school environment where no child gets lost or ignored. At SET, every student feels comfortable going up to a teacher or principal for any kind of help.” Neil McCurdy, Principal
We teach tenacity and grit so that our students can meet challenges head-on. We see our students working hard, despite sometimes long odds. We also see the joy that comes from engaging with school in new ways, from emerging self-confidence to elevated classroom dynamics.
We celebrate improvement as we embrace individuality. Every school day, our four Academic Coaches are at-the-ready to support classroom learning and personal growth. We have two teachers in every class — giving us hearty availability and access with every student.
Entrepreneurs for Life!
We don’t think in four-year timelines. Our entrepreneurial approach is more than just high school test scores and graduation rates. We invest in every unique SET High student as they launch into bold leaders, confident ideators and great citizens. We are thrilled to be a California Distinguished School and we will never stop aiming to do more for our students!
About SET High
SET High offers each student individual attention from multi-talented, highly qualified teachers, a healthy camaraderie with classmates and an intellectually rigorous environment that brings out their talents and personality. With a wide variety of electives, flexible scheduling, dual enrollment college classes and more — our students regularly exceed their academic and personal expectations. Enrolling now!