Six Santa Barbara County public elementary schools — including three in the Goleta Union School District — have been named California Distinguished Schools for 2012, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Thursday.

Foothill, Isla Vista and Kellogg elementary schools were among 387 schools statewide to received the honors, which are based on innovative education programs that encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.

Other local campuses recognized were Monte Vista Elementary in the Hope Elementary School District, Crestview Elementary in the Lompoc Unified School District and Santa Ynez Elementary in the College School District.

“The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California’s teachers, administrators and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools,” Torlakson said in a news release. “Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence.”

The 2012 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California’s students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.

To be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria, including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Academic Performance Index requirements.

Once schools are deemed eligible, the state Department of Education invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school’s signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.

Elementary and secondary schools (middle and high schools) are recognized in alternate years. This year focuses on elementary schools.

Click here for a list of the 2012 California Distinguished Schools.

Schools earning the Distinguished School title agree to share their signature practices with other schools, and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work. An updated searchable database of these Signature Practices will be available later this spring through the state Department of Education.

Schools selected for recognition will be honored as Distinguished Schools at award ceremonies at which Torlakson will present each school with a 2012 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.