Clover Avenue Elementary School in West Los Angeles was the only one among more than 650 schools in the L.A. Unified School District to receive a 2012 National Blue Ribbon Award, a U.S. Department of Education accolade that recognizes K–12 schools that show significant student achievement or improvement. Its test scores tell why: 97 percent of fifth-graders in 2011–12 scored "proficient" or above on California's standardized math tests, and 90 percent did equally well on reading tests.

Academic prowess is just part of Clover Elementary's success. The school also prides itself on supporting the whole child. It offers mentoring programs where older kids help younger kids with basic skills, reading and play. It offers a team approach to teaching and academic activities. It encourages a high level of parental involvement. And it promotes community-service activities for children, like getting them involved in recycling.

"When kids start to see that being successful includes the social and emotional side of things, it gives them a deeper sense of themselves, and they're more receptive to learning," says the school's principal, Sharon Fabian.

In recognition of those characteristics and more, this year, APA's Board of Educational Affairs gave Clover its first "Golden Psi Award," a $1,000 prize that recognizes schools that use evidence-based psychological science and measurement to facilitate students' academic, social and emotional growth.

The award recognizes schools that use effective and innovative environments for student learning and development, says Tammy Hughes, PhD, professor and chair of counseling, education and special education at Duquesne University.

"It's about how psychology can help schools measure what is working, what is not working and then help educators make adjustments at the individual, classroom or program level," says Hughes, who chaired the BEA task force that developed the award. 

BEA plans to give one award per year to a school that best exemplifies those criteria, says Hughes. Each year, the school will be chosen from the same region that hosts APA's Annual Convention. That way the application process will have a local feel and will enable BEA task force members and other APA representatives to invite local educators to highlight the award and share ways APA can help schools meet their goals, Hughes explains.

An APA representative will visit the winning school to present the award to the principal, teachers and students whose work is recognized, and APA will send a press release on the winner and the award to the local media. It will also be shared with the local mayor, government representatives, parents and other members of the school's community.

That publicity "will highlight what is working well and generate excitement for the award in that part of the country," Hughes says.

In 2013, the award was given to Clover — a school in the Western region — since the APA convention was held in Hawaii. In 2014, it will go to a school in the Eastern region — Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., or West Virginia — as that year's convention will be held in Washington, D.C. Any publicly or privately funded school in the region that teaches any combination of grades between pre-K and 12th grade can apply.

Given BEA's criteria, it wasn't difficult to choose this year's winner, says Hughes.

"They're doing everything right as a school — the kids are engaged, they're on task and working together, their parents are supporting them at home, and their teachers are highly informed," she says. "They set high standards, but they're also actively involved in motivating people toward achieving those standards. It is important to showcase schools that are really working well for children and their families."

Tori DeAngelis is a writer in Syracuse, N.Y.

Apply for the 2014 Golden Psi

Applications for the 2014 Golden Psi award are due Nov. 1, and the winner will be notified on Feb. 1. The award will be presented to the winning school in May, and will be highlighted at APA's Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., in August.

For more information about the award and how to apply, visit Golden Psi award.