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Section 1117 (b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Act of 2001 requires that all states receiving Title I funds establish a program that recognizes Title I schools that exceed Adequate Yearly Progress for two or more years or significantly close the achievement gap among numerically significant subgroups.

In order to be considered for honor, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on Adequate Yearly Progress and Academic Performance Index requirements.

Schools selected for recognition receive the Title I Academic Achievement Award at a regional awards ceremony where the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will present each school with the Academic Achievement Award. The events and awards are funded by donations from many of California's most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.

Additionally, each year the National Association of State Title I Directors presents two National Title I Distinguished School Awards per state. The awards are given to one Academic Achievement Award winning school that has demonstrated exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years and to one Academic Achievement Award winning school that made the most progress in closing the achievement gap between student groups.