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Horizon Elementary named one of the top schools in the state

From the moment Horizon Elementary School opened its doors as McFarland Unified School District’s newest elementary school six years ago, its motto has always been "Spot on for students."

Now, everyone else will get a chance to find out why.

In its first-ever elementary school rankings, U.S. News & World Report named Horizon Elementary School one of the best elementary schools in the state for its students’ academic success in reading and math.

"This is such a well-deserved honor for Horizon students, families and staff," said McFarland Superintendent Aaron Resendez. "McFarland schools are a tremendous source of pride in our community, and the Horizon community is living proof of the power of the whole child, whole community approach."

Horizon earned U.S. News & World Report’s honor after placing in the top 30 percent of elementary schools in the state. California has more than 5,500 elementary schools.

U.S. News & World Report based the rankings on state-required testing in math and reading. Horizon Elementary School students scored seven percentage points higher in math than the California state average and four percentage points higher in reading.

"We have such a wonderful and dedicated community here at Horizon with students and staff going above and beyond to ensure that all of the Jaguars succeed," said Horizon Principal Vanessa Deleon. "The Horizon staff has one mindset to push kids to succeed as much as they need it. Horizon kids deserve this, and the staff, students and families worked tirelessly for this honor."

Already recognized for its climate and culture as a Silver and Bronze California Positive Behavioral Interventions System Coalition school, Horizon’s team is very intentional about everything from parental involvement to staff and student engagement.

“We just have an incredible community,” Principal Deleon said. “When the pandemic hit, Horizon’s students were disappointed that they would not be able to take the test because they had practiced and worked so hard. Our students look at it as their Super Bowl.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, 46 percent of students scored at or above proficiency in math, and 51 percent scored at or above proficiency in reading. The rankings are based on assessments taken during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The state suspended its statewide math and English assessments for the 2020-2021 school year.

Horizon serves a school population of just under 500 students, with 87 percent qualifying for free and reduced lunch and 48 percent being English Language Learners.

The teaching and learning team at Horizon consists of 100% of teachers with their teaching credentials, and 87 percent have three years or more of experience.

"When we were planning this school, we knew we had something special," Principal Deleon said. "We have a state-of-the-art facility, and since we opened, we have been very intentional about everything from expectations, academics and social-emotional learning. We asked ourselves what we wanted our legacy to be and decided that we wanted to be known for making a difference in the lives of Horizon students and their families."

During the pandemic, the Horizon team delivered school supplies and developed creative and innovative ways to engage students. The staff started a weekly video podcast called Jaguars Podcast to enhance and build community. The school’s rallies also became part of the podcasts. Horizon also boasts 99.9 percent parent engagement.

“Horizon’s parents are our partners,” Principal Deleon said. “They provided so much assistance to us last year and helped us get through a very tough year. We are grateful for our parent involvement.”

McFarland USD will honor Horizon Elementary School at its December board Meeting.

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  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 158,270

  • Deaths: 1,828

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 150,950 

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  • Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department

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