The CSBA Golden Bell Awards® promote excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. The Golden Bell Awards reflect the depth and breadth of education programs and governance decisions supporting these programs that are necessary to address students’ changing needs.

The entry period for the 2024 CSBA Golden Bell Awards has officially ended.


Addressing Gaps in Student Outcomes

Includes initiatives that employ disaggregated local data to identify and address barriers to student success. May include programs that actively work towards closing opportunity gaps through data-driven interventions, culturally relevant pedagogy, and strategies that have closed opportunity and achievement gaps through a more equitable distribution of resources and targeted supports and interventions.

Alternative Education

Includes programs that deliver non-traditional learning opportunities and programs of choice. Programs may include those focused on suspension and expulsion alternatives, dropout prevention, expelled students, students under court supervision, and other youth who can benefit from a non-traditional program.

Career Technical Education

Includes successful models, strategies and supporting data focused on efforts to prepare students for both career and college that may include linked learning, career pathways, regional occupation programs, career exploration opportunities and internships, in supporting programs that focus on career technical education.

Civic Education

Includes comprehensive strategies to engage students in the democratic process; collaboration with civic organizations to advance civic education and/or programs; and opportunities for hands-on civic engagement experiences, including school governance and participatory action research. May also include programs that increase students’ eligibility for the State Seal of Civic Engagement.

Climate Change Innovation

Includes programs that address climate justice, initiatives and partnerships that promote awareness of the effects of global climate change and engage students in creative solutions. Includes areas of school facilities and operations, resource conservation and energy efficiency, as well as student-centered curricula that promotes understanding and action on climate change and climate justice.

Community Schools through Partnerships and Collaboration

Includes efforts to implement community school strategies to provide holistic supports for academics, physical and mental health in support of student success and well-being including partnerships between the school, city, county, families and community. Characteristics include a shared vision and leadership, core educational programming, strong family engagement, expansion of learning opportunities, shared resources, and a comprehensive set of integrated services designed to meet the full range of learning and developmental needs of students.

County Office Systems of Support

Includes county offices of education (COEs) that exemplify effective and collaborative support for continuous improvement in the districts they serve. Support can include those identified for differentiated assistance, with an emphasis on a systems approach. Examples of supports to districts may include  facilitated strategic planning, connecting districts with resources tailored to identified needs, networked improvement communities or inter- and intra-district collaboration, professional learning opportunities, or assistance with Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) development and implementation. This would also include COEs that financially and programmatically support districts in mental health initiatives.

Curriculum and Instruction

Includes standards-aligned models that use interdisciplinary teaching, thematic instruction, technology and other innovative or exemplary instructional strategies and integrated programs that improve engagement and outcomes for students.

Programs may be submitted in any of the following specific programmatic or curricular areas:

    • Ethnic Studies
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Ethnic Studies standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
    • Health Education
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Health Education standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
    • History-Social Science
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s History-Social Science standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
    • Integrated Content
      Includes programs and strategies for instructional approaches that integrate content from two or more curricular areas, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
    • Literacy/English Language arts
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Literacy and English Language Arts standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
      Includes programs and strategies that support the teaching and learning of content in science, technology (including computer science), engineering and mathematics, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction. May also include approaches that integrate STEM content with the arts.
    • Technology Innovation
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Technology standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Visual and Performing Arts standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging, and rigorous instruction.
    • World Languages/Biliteracy
      Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s World Languages standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.

Early Childhood Education

Includes all programs and initiatives that support developmentally appropriate learning for children 5 and under, including full-day kindergarten; transitional kindergarten; preschool; and collaborations with cities, counties and other organizations. May include strategies for expanding access to current programs while maintaining quality; improving alignment between K-12 and early childhood systems; and for increased early childhood education teacher training, recruitment and retention.

Equitable Student Outcomes

Includes the impact of data-driven programs on improving student outcomes and reducing achievement gaps. Acknowledging initiatives that demonstrate outstanding success in utilizing local data, implementing intervention strategies, and incorporating culturally relevant pedagogy to create tangible improvements in student achievement, fostering an environment where every student can succeed.

Expanded Learning and Engagement

Includes programs offered during expanded learning time that meet the needs of students and engages them in activities that develop their physical and social-emotional well-being and academic interests. These programs may include athletics, visual and performing arts, debate, mock trial, student government, before- and after-school programming, summer or intersession programming and independent study. May also include programs and strategies that address learning recovery and cover core content instruction, including tutoring.

Family and Community Engagement

Includes programs that encourage or facilitate family involvement in their child’s education, including innovative approaches to culturally competent outreach and effective involvement of families from diverse communities. Also may include programs in which local educational agencies incorporate broader community engagement efforts such as community partnerships.

Integrated Career Pathways Education

Includes outstanding programs that excel in fostering college readiness, dual enrollment and apprenticeship opportunities for students. Successful models and strategies include comprehensive approaches to preparing students for both career and college paths and/or a graduate profile. Programs may demonstrate excellence in linked learning, career pathways and regional occupation programs, integrating apprenticeships to provide hands-on experience. The inclusion of dual enrollment initiatives ensures students are well-prepared for the transition into higher education. This category highlights efforts that go beyond traditional education, offering innovative pathways and opportunities that empower students for success in both academic and career pursuits.

Positive School Climate and Safety

Includes programs that effectively prevent or reduce school violence by promoting a safe and positive school climate, and by teaching students to resolve conflicts. May also include restorative practices and bullying prevention initiatives or interventions. Additionally, may include programs that promote school safety using planning, monitoring and assessment tools; cybersecurity initiatives; other programs that support students’ sense of belonging and engagement to increase motivation and achievement; and successful efforts to reduce school suspensions and expulsions.

Professional Learning

Includes all professional learning programs for staff, including teachers, administrators and classified personnel, to improve instructional strategies, cultural proficiency and social-emotional support for students. May include beginning teacher support and assessment programs, as well as intern, credentialing and grow-your-own programs.

Reducing Barriers through Inclusive, Equitable Resource Distribution and Opportunities

Includes programs that successfully eliminate barriers hindering student access to educational opportunities and success. Acknowledging efforts that foster inclusiveness, strategically target services based on individual student needs, strategies focused on creating a more equitable distribution of resources, and promote an environment where all students can thrive with high-quality education programs and necessary supports.

Social/Emotional Health/Wellness

Programs focusing on a holistic approach to the social, emotional and mental health and well-being of all members of the local educational agency community, including students, teachers, administrators, superintendents, board members and all other staff. Plans can include, but are not limited to, the expansion of counseling, professional development, trauma services, innovative use of district resources for mental health supports, and family and community mental health programming.

Special Education

Includes, but is not limited to, programs designed to serve students with disabilities from birth to age 22, such as preschool programs, full-inclusion programs, programs designed to reduce non-public school placements and adult-transition programs. May also include partnership with a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), innovative programs and resources developed to address the learning and social impacts resulting from distance learning or independent study resulting from learning disruptions.

Student Attendance and Re-engagement Strategies

Includes local educational agencies that have used exceptional strategies to promote student attendance and identify methods of re-engagement, particularly for students with high levels of absenteeism. These strategies could include fostering a whole local educational agency culture of attendance, addressing barriers to engagement, effectively working with community and other educational partners to implement programmatic reforms, or other methods reconnecting and promoting attendance.

Student Engagement and Empowerment

Includes programs and initiatives that provide opportunities for students to develop and practice leadership skills such as public speaking, collaboration, critical thinking, civic engagement and youth participatory action projects. This also includes programs that foster student voice such as student advisory boards, student trustee academies, student advisory councils, student-led youth summits and student governing boards.

Student Support Services

Includes programs and strategies that provide students with the supports and services they need to be successful in school. May include on-campus student service centers, support for unhoused students, parent education programs, foster youth support, peer assistance and nutrition programs.

Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Recruitment programs include those that have proven success in hiring and retaining teachers, particularly teachers of color and multilingual educators, in the local educational agency. Also includes programs that offer successful strategies to attract and keep teachers in critical shortage areas. May also include programs and strategies such as grow-your-own programs, career technical education pathways, and innovative local collaborations and partnerships that promote the profession of education.

Using Data to Support Student Success

Includes successful approaches and innovative use of data to assess student achievement and/or program effectiveness on a district-/county office of education-wide basis to support continuous improvement for student success. May include the use of summative, formative and performance assessments, including locally developed assessments, as well as surveys and other data sources. Other options include strategies that emphasize systems approaches such as articulation within and between grade levels, differentiating instruction and equitable placement policies.


Eligibility Criteria
  • The program is operated in a CSBA member district or county office of education.
  • The program must have started at least two years prior to the Golden Bell Awards program entry deadline of June 28, 2024 and currently be in existence.
  • Applications open on April 1, 2024.
  • The superintendent, board president and responsible administrator must sign-off on the application.
  • Entries must be completed online.
  • A narrative describing the program must be uploaded in PDF format, not exceed 4 pages in length, double-spaced in no smaller than 11-point font.
  • Evidence of Board Support must be uploaded in PDF format and not exceed 2 pages in length.
  • Three high-resolution, color digital photos must be uploaded. Four (4) examples of high-resolution, print-quality photos, please see below.
  • Only three applications per district or county office of education.
  • Only one winner per LEA will be awarded in an awards cycle.
  • Entries must be submitted by the deadline – Midnight of June 28, 2024.


Programs will be judged on a scoring rubric, based on descriptors for each program category. In order to receive a Golden Bell Award, applicants must demonstrate that the program:

Is Data Driven

Data-driven decision making is an important feature for the creation, implementation and sustainability of award-winning programs. School boards and site-level practitioners can use data to pinpoint issues of importance to the district and school site. Golden Bell Award winners will display how they used data to come to conclusions about student needs, program creation, implementation and sustainability.

Has Made a Difference for Students

Examples include: student evaluations or feedback demonstrating student satisfaction; surveys of parents, staff or community; degree of participation in program; all students who can benefit from the program are empowered to participate; data demonstrating program has undergone a rigorous evaluation and shows evidence of statistically significant improvements in student achievement, school environment or other desired outcomes; significant improvements for participants, including clearly articulated program goals, identification of measurable outcomes and evidence that demonstrates the program has generated cost savings that have released resources to provide greater services to students; and effective outreach to students who can benefit from the program.

Is Innovative or Exemplary

Examples include: exemplary implementation of a program; uniqueness throughout the state; creative approach to solving a problem or presenting a curriculum; use of new methods or technology to teach a needed skill or enhance the student experience; creative funding; etc. If a program has been replicated from another program, examples of how the program has been implemented in a unique or innovative manner.

Shows Evidence of Board Support and Leadership and is Connected to Board’s Vision

Examples include: demonstrating that the school board helped create the conditions for success to support programming; board members fulfill the five major responsibilities of their role (setting direction, establishing structure, providing support, ensuring accountability, acting as a community leader) in the service of supporting this program; linkage between the program and the district’s or county office’s LCAP, evidence of program presentation and discussion at board meetings, evidence of board member program visitation and evidence of consideration during budget hearings.

Is Sustainable Over Time

Examples include: length of time in operation; stable source of funding; high participation from students; sufficient staff knowledge and commitment to maintain the program; strong support from students, parents, educators, the community and the board; a broad base of support and a strong structure in place to support the program; flexibility to meet changing needs; and expansion to serve more students or school sites.

Concepts can be Replicated

Examples include: evidence that the program has already been or could be replicated; written goals and procedures; availability of staff to discuss the program and demonstrate effective strategies; evidence that the district and county office actively reaches out to other districts and county offices of education to assist them in replicating the program; appropriateness for a different student population or staff; minimal needs for special facilities or equipment; and reasonable costs for initial implementation and training.


All eligible entries will be considered, and the decision of the judges is final. In cases where none of the eligible programs in a given program category meets or exceeds the total score set by CSBA, no award will be given. While many valuable programs may meet basic eligibility criteria, the total score needed for an award is intentionally set high to select the most innovative or exemplary programs, which have made a demonstrated difference for students, are sustainable and are connected to other district/county office vision efforts.

Timeline for judging


June 28 Entries due
June/July Judging/scoring
August Applicants will be notified if they are a finalist and will be moving forward to an on-site visit
September Evaluation of potential award winners through an on-site visitation
October Announcement of award winners
December Awards Event


Please adhere to the following specifications when selecting your 3 (three) high quality photos for submission:

  • File size should be between 1 MB and 4 MB
  • Minimum 750 pixels wide
  • Full color, unedited photos are preferred
  • Orientation should be landscape, not portrait
  • No blurry or low resolution photos please! Only crisp, clear and print-quality photos can be used in the variety of media formats that CSBA wishes to showcase its winning programs.

To check the file size and pixel width of your photo on a Windows computer, right-click on the photo or file name and select “properties”.


Thank you to our 2023 Golden Bell Awards® Sponsors: