Del Valle High School in Livermore and Valley High School in Dublin are among 24 continuation schools statewide to be named outstanding in their field.
Both schools have been named 2014 California Model Continuation Schools. The recognition program is a partnership between the state Education Department and the California Continuation Education Association. Evaluation teams visited 25 nominated campuses statewide, eventually designating 24 schools as exemplary. The criteria included excellence in school management, curriculum instruction, educational climate and guidance and counseling. Darrel Avilla, principal at Del Valle High School, shared the credit for the achievement.
"I think first and foremost we have an outstanding staff who care about young people, from secretarial support to teaching staff and counseling groups," he said.
"We also have a very, very supportive district level administration, from the superintendent to the school board. They all understand the importance of continuing education and of being able to provide comprehensive programs for students who don't fit the mold, for whatever reason, of the comprehensive high school."
Del Valle's smaller size -- about 165 students -- makes for a smaller student-to-teacher ratio that helps young people succeed, he added.
"We have an ability to have more connectivity with the student," Avilla said. "And it's also the Del Valle community, which includes staff, parents and community members in general; we're very well supported, and that's why we're successful."
Del Valle and Valley high schools, along with the other recognized campuses, provide students ages 16 and older with an alternative high school diploma program. While some students are behind in their high school credits, others are in need of flexible schedules due to jobs outside school, family needs or other circumstances.
More than 67,000 students attended California's 479 continuation high schools in the 2012-13 school year. Programs
focus on school-to-career education, individualized instructional programs and intensive guidance and counseling. While continuation programs still face some stigma, Avilla said schools like Del Valle are changing people's attitudes toward alternative education.
"I don't believe continuation schools are schools that the 'bad' kids go to," he said. "That is not the culture here. The culture here is a school where students can succeed despite their challenges they've had in the education system.
"We're honored to be recognized and humbled to be part of it," he said of the recognition. "It validates we're doing the right things."