CDCR Distinguished Schools

distinguished school emblem

Program Information

The CDCR Distinguished Schools (DS) program recognizes exemplary achievements made in the field of correctional education within the 35 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) accredited schools. The program was created to distinguish and celebrate the CDCR schools that have made exceptional gains in implementing academic and career technical content and performance standards adopted by the Office of Correctional Education (OCE). It also provides the opportunity to shine a light on the successes and life-changing experiences of the academic teachers, vocational instructors, and incarcerated individuals that normally aren’t seen behind prison walls.

The DS program is rooted in Richard Dufour’s work on Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and its best practices for reforming under-performing schools into high-achieving exemplars. It is based on a cycle of continuous improvement that focuses on student achievement and success through quality first instruction, timely needed academic support, and authentic educator self-assessment. Through Dufour’s PLC process and the commitment of quality education by correctional staff, the CDCR schools have state of the art Career Technical Education (CTE) programs and quality academic courses.

Link to Distinguished Schools Video

2020 Distinguished School Award Recipient

The Vista Del Rio Adult School, located inside the California Rehabilitation Center has received the 2020 Distinguished School Award.


The DS process provides CDCR Institution Wardens, Principals, and other executive leaders the opportunity to shine a light on the outstanding programs they have built. The DS application and review process is neither a mandate nor a requirement. The distinction is intended to be a collaborative one, rooted in the strong belief that the schools inside the CDCR prisons deserve the recognition and acclaim that will accompany the Distinguished School Award honor. All CDCR schools are welcomed to apply.

Contact Information

Email the OCE Special Projects Unit for any questions.