Signal Hill and Tucker elementary schools have won the National Center for Urban School Transformation’s Excellence in Urban Education Award. Only 11 schools nationwide earned the honor this year. The Long Beach Unified School District is the only district in the nation with two winners. Signal Hill, Tucker and the other top winners will be recognized at the 2008 NCUST symposium May 8 to 9 in San Diego. To compete for the award, urban school applicants must meet 11 rigorous criteria, including proficiency rates on state assessments that exceed state averages, high achievement for all demographic groups served, high attendance rates, low suspension and expulsion rates for all demographic groups served, high graduation rates, and the attainment of federal Adequate Yearly Progress goals. The majority of students served at the schools must meet low-income criteria, and the schools must have non-selective admissions policies. In every winning school, students, teachers, support staff and parents felt valued, supported and appreciated, according to NCUST’s website, www.ncust.org. “The Excellence in Urban Education awards acknowledge that many educators in urban schools are accomplishing amazing results,” said Dr. Joseph F. Johnson, Jr., executive director of NCUST. “As a nation we give lots of attention to those schools that are in need of improvement, but there’s far too little attention paid to the schools that are serving children exceptionally well.” Signal Hill and Tucker schools were among four LBUSD schools that made the NCUST’s 2008 National Honor Roll earlier this year. King Elementary School and Robinson K-8 Academy shared that honor, which was bestowed upon only 53 schools in the United States. Of the four local Honor Roll schools, both Tucker and Signal Hill were selected as finalists and then as top winners. LBUSD’s Edison Elementary School won the NCUST’s top honor last year. As with Edison, both Signal Hill and Tucker already have earned the California Distinguished School Award, and they have earned the National Title I Achieving School Award. Signal Hill Elementary School last year was one of six schools nationwide to receive the National School Change Award for significant improvement in student achievement. That award was given by the National Principals Leadership Institute at the Fordham University Graduate School of Education. For Tucker Elementary, this year’s award is especially poignant. Next fall, Tucker will close as part of a cost-savings move necessitated by declining enrollment and the state’s budget crisis, which is requiring school districts throughout California to find ways to save limited resources. Tucker will merge with MacArthur Elementary School, allowing the Long Beach Unified School District to use Tucker as offices for existing school programs that are currently in leased facilities. “Tucker will close on a high note, thanks to a tremendous amount of work by our entire school community,” said the school’s principal, Christi Granado. “What a great honor to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished here. The timing is a little bittersweet, but we’re encouraged that our talented students and teachers will remain together as they move to MacArthur.” At Signal Hill, the award represents another in a series of prestigious honors. “This award is a wonderful honor for an absolutely fantastic school community that always puts children first,” said Principal Karen Williams. “It’s also a testament to our teachers and support staff, who continually focus on growth for both themselves and our students.” This year’s eleven NCUST top winners receive a check for $1,000 and a large banner for their school, as well as a commemorative photo album, a profile published on the NCUST website, and complimentary travel and registration for two people to the symposium. Representatives from each winning school -- along with several finalists -- will present their successful strategies at the 2008 symposium. NCUST is part of the QUALCOMM Institute for Innovation and Educational Success at San Diego State University. The organization was founded to support urban schools nationwide, encouraging their transformation into highly successful institutions that promote enthusiastic learning, student success and the preparation for a positive future.