For the second time in five years, Isla Vista School has been honored with a Title I Academic Achievement Award by the state Department of Education.

The 2010-2011 award was bestowed on the Goleta Union School District campus for improving the academic growth of disadvantaged students. It was the only Santa Barbara County school to receive such a distinction this year.

To qualify for the Title I award, a school must demonstrate through a series of tests that all students are making significant progress toward proficiency on California’s academic content standard. The designation honors high-performance schools that have significantly raised achievement in mathematics and reading of students living at or near the federal poverty level, which the Health and Human Services Department defines as $22,350 for a family of four in 2011.

Isla Vista School, 6875 El Colegio Road, is among the 209 Title I schools recognized by the state Department of Education for having met and exceeded adequate yearly progress scores in English language arts and mathematics for two years or more — ranking the school among the top 3 percent out of 6,000 Title I schools statewide.

The school showed an improvement in overall test scores, with its Academic Performance Index (API) rising to 826 in 2010 from 782 in 2006.

“Our school is a community-based school so it’s not about just raising test scores,” said Principal Lisa Maglione. “The sum total of all this means great academic achievement for kids.”

Administrators say the key to the school’s success is the daily collaboration of shared decision-making between faculty, parents, volunteer tutors and a host of organizations and schools from within the community.

The school, just west of UCSB, offers numerous activities to engage students in the learning process, ranging from reading sit-ins, math and spelling competitions to field trips and on-site assemblies hosted by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

“We have a fantastic Dramatic Arts Program that is aligned with Dos Pueblos High School and Santa Barbara City College,” Maglione said. “I have 55 kids who play the strings.”

Oscar F. Garcia, 12, learned to play the violin and clarinet during his six years in the program and has excelled beyond his father’s expectations.

“Oscar has been accepted into the advanced orchestra program at Goleta Valley Junior High School in September,” said Felipe Garcia, Oscar’s father and president of the Isla Vista School PTA Board.

The Title I award is a major accomplishment for the school considering the ethnic diversity of its 466 students, who speak 17 different languages among them.

“Two-thirds of the state is Title I,” said Maglione. “So we’re representative of what the majority of the state is grappling with in regards to how do you get kids who’ve come from limited resources and speaking multiple languages to grade level and above.”

Maglione doesn’t view diversity as a deterrent but rather as a challenge to overcome.

“It’s about closing the achievement gap, but it’s also about moving everybody forward,” she said. “That’s why our mantra here is all children advance.”

Parent volunteer Dawn Heimendinger said that when her 6-year old son, Dawson Davis, had problems with fine motor coordination and writing in kindergarten, his teacher recognized the problem early and enrolled him in a program called “Writing Without Tears.”

“With the smaller class sizes, areas of struggles for students are quickly identified and actions are taken to remedy them,” Heimendinger said.

“This award is all about celebrating student achievement and teachers’ hard work,” said Maglione.

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.