Back Bay High School earned statewide recognition last week when the California Department of Education honored the Costa Mesa institution as a model continuation school.

Based on criteria like attendance, graduation rates and academics followed up with a site visit, the California Department of Education held Back Bay up as an example for the state's 504 other continuation schools.

Thirteen of those institutions did an outstanding job educating struggling students and earned the award, State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Friday in a news release.

This is the second time Back Bay has won the accolade, which lasts for three years.

"I couldn't be happier. It's just very rewarding," said Principal Deborah Davis, who is in her 11th year leading the school.

Only 15 schools submitted applications that covered all aspects of operation from management to curriculum and included written support from students, students' guardians or parents, and other community members.

"They look at everything from your admission policy to your suspension rate to your drop-out policy," Davis said. "If you're going to be a model continuation school you have to be affective."

She credited her staff from top to bottom for embracing an attitude based on accepting the 180 to 190 students they serve.

"Our philosophy is, 'Love me when I'm most unlovable,' " she said. "There's no problem we're not excited about."

As part of the award, other educators can tour Back Bay and glean guidance for their own programs.

For visitors, Davis will often highlight the school's policy to take admissions at any point in the year or Back Bay's 15-to-1 staff-to-student ratio.

For that commitment to staffing, Davis credits the Newport-Mesa Unified School District as a whole.

"There are a lot of continuation high schools with districts that don't give the same level of support. Our school board cares about our school," Davis said. "There's a commitment you have to have from the district."

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck