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. 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 call for entries for Golden Bell applications is now closed.



Includes successful approaches, techniques and innovative use of data to assess student achievement and/or program effectiveness on a districtwide basis and for ensuring continuous improvement and accountability. 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 between grade levels, differentiating instruction and equitable placement policies.

Alternative Education

Includes programs that deliver non-traditional learning opportunities. Programs include those focused on providing suspension and expulsion alternatives and those serving students at-risk of dropping out, expelled students, students under court supervision, and other youth who can benefit from a non-traditional program.

Career Technical Education

Includes the display of successful models, techniques and supporting data focused on efforts to prepare students for both career and college, such as linked learning; career pathways; regional occupation programs; career exploration opportunities; etc. in supporting programs that focus on career and technical education.

Civic Education

Includes comprehensive strategies to engage students in the democratic process; collaborations 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.

Closing the Opportunity Gap through LCAP Implementation

Includes the display of successful models, techniques and supporting data focused on programs that help narrow and close the academic achievement gap for under-performing student groups that have been prioritized in the budgeting process and included in the LCAP. Such efforts may include data driven intervention strategies, meaningful disaggregation of student performance data, culturally relevant pedagogy, a focus on integration, course access and professional development focused on closing the gap.

Community Schools through Partnerships and Collaboration

Includes efforts to implement the community school strategy, which is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school, city, county and the community. Characteristics include a shared vision, shared leadership and shared accountability; 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 the students.

Curriculum and Instruction through the California Standards Implementation

Includes models that utilize interdisciplinary teaching, thematic instruction, learning styles, technology and other innovative or exemplary instructional strategies and integrated programs that will be successful within the lens of the California Standards.

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

English / Reading / Language Arts

Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s English Language Arts standards and framework, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.

Foreign Language

Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s World Languages standards and framework, with a particular 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.


Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, with an emphasis on equitable, innovative, engaging and rigorous instruction.


Includes programs and strategies for the effective implementation of California’s Next Generation Science 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.

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.

Early Childhood Education

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

English Learners/Multiliteracy

Includes programs and strategies that assist English learners in achieving proficiency in English and in other academic subjects, including dual language and multilingual programs. Also includes strategies that support all students in achieving proficiency in English and other languages so that they graduate from high school multilingual and multiliterate.

Environmental Innovation and Climate Change Solutions

Includes programs, 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.

Equity and Access

These programs strive to break down barriers that have prevented student access to an equitable education including those that foster genuine cross-cultural understanding and inclusiveness, strategically target services to students based on their needs, and promote a more equitable distribution of resources. These programs put into action the belief that all students can learn when they have access to high-quality education programs and the supports they need to succeed.

Expanded Learning and Engagement

Includes programs offered during expanded learning time that meet the needs of students and engage them in activities to strengthen their human potential, including athletics, visual and performing arts, enrichment, debate, mock trial and student government.

Family/Student/Community Engagement

Includes programs that encourage or facilitate family involvement in their child’s education, including innovative approaches to outreach and effective involvement of families from diverse communities. Also includes programs in which LEAs incorporate student engagement in site and district/COE decision-making, as well as broader community engagement efforts such as community partnerships.

Professional Development and Teacher Recruitment/Retention

Includes all professional development programs for staff, including teachers, administrators and classified personnel, focused on improving cultural proficiency. May include beginning teacher support and assessment programs, as well as intern, credentialing, and “grow-your-own” programs. Recruitment programs include those that have proven success in hiring and retaining teachers, particularly teachers of color and multilingual educators, in the district/coe. Also includes programs and strategies that offer successful strategies to attract and keep teachers in critical shortage areas.

School Culture & 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 other prevention or intervention strategies such as programs that promote school safety using planning, monitoring and assessment tools; programs that support students’ sense of belonging and engagement in order to increase motivation and achievement; and successful efforts to reduce school suspensions and expulsions.

Special Education

Includes, but is not limited to, programs designed to serve students with special needs, from birth to age 22, such as preschool programs, full-inclusion programs, programs designed to reduce non-public school placements and adult-transition programs.

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, parent education programs, foster and homeless youth supports, counseling and intervention programs, peer assistance and nutrition programs, and interventions that reduce chronic absence.

Systems of Support

Includes county offices of education that exemplify effective and collaborative support for continuous improvement in the districts they serve. Support can include those identified for differentiated improvement, with an emphasis on a systems approach. Among possible examples of supports, COEs might offer 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 LCAP development and implementation.


Includes the use of technology as an instructional tool that supports students in engaging with the curriculum, provides them with the skills to be successful in an increasingly technological world, expands access to educational services and promotes equal access to technology essential to their education (including the internet, media and other resources).


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 Friday, June 25, 2021 and currently be in existence
  • The superintendent, board president and responsible administrator must sign-off on the application
  • Entries must be completed online (link to application coming soon)
  • 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
  • Three high-resolution, color digital photos must be uploaded. For examples of high-resolution, print-quality photos, please see below.
  • Only three applications per district or county office of education
  • Entries must be submitted by the deadline of Friday, June 25, 2021


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 25 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 2020 Golden Bell Awards® Sponsors: