By Theresa Harrington
Students at Delta View Elementary in Pittsburg are thrilled about the school’s recognition as one of 484 “California Distinguished Schools,” Principal Susan Petersen told me today.
“I let them know in our announcements this morning,” she said, when I called to congratulate her. “I had a couple of students there leading the Pledge of Allegiance. When they heard me make the announcement, they were jumping up and down, they were so excited! They were very proud.”
Delta View and all the other schools that received the recognition demonstrated “signature practices” that helped them achieve academic excellence and narrow achievement gaps between low- and high-performing students.
Delta View’s signature practices were strategic planning and math education, Petersen said. The state Department of Education plans to post a database of signature practices on its Website later this spring.
Here’s a preview for those who want to know now what Delta View’s secrets are.
Strategic planning: All schools develop plans, but Petersen said Delta View’s strategic planning was more comprehensive and focused on creating a positive learning climate. Staff broke down the climate into four components:
1) overall environment
2) parent component
3) student component
4) staff component
The staff identified a total of 33 action steps to take related to these components, Petersen said.
For example, they implemented school uniforms as part of the environment. Teachers decided to make home visits to better connect to parents. They trained third- through fifth-grade student conflict managers in peer mediation to strengthen the student body. And staff received cultural proficiency training to help them better understand students and their families.
“All of this was designed to bring our climate together, so everyone knew what was expected,” Petersen said. “Our goals were to limit the challenging student behavior — limit the discipline referrals — because too much time was being taken out of the classroom.”
The plan worked. The school logged 632 discipline referrals in 2006-07, 497 in 2007-08 and 202 in 2008-09.
“Our numbers of suspensions decreased, while our expectations for behavior increased,” Petersen said. “It also brought the staff together because we realized we needed consistency and we needed agreement about how we were responding.”
Math education: Called “Math strategies for success,” Delta View’s program includes BoardMath, which I wrote about in September. You can see a video about it here:
The curriculum is rigorous and builds academic vocabulary, which help students to understand test questions, Petersen said. The teaching strategy requires educators to constantly assess students and analyze data such as test scores.
“Its preteaching and reteaching end-of-year standards,” she said. “We reteach where needed or accelerate where kids are ready to move on.”
A team of four outside administrators spent a day at Delta View to look for evidence of the signature practices. They interviewed staff, students and parents, Petersen said.
In the end, Delta View earned the distinguished recognition that lauds the school as a model for others. But, Petersen said the school has been considered a model since it made tremendous gains last year on Academic Performance Index scores, which measure student achievement.
On a scale of 200 to 1,000, the school grew from 747 in 2008 to 830 in 2009, exceeding the state’s proficiency goal of 800. This came on top of a 66-point increase the previous year, giving the school a whopping two-year gain of 148 points.
“We’re very excited that we’re named a distinguished school,” Petersen said. “It is reflecting the work that we’ve done and our students’ success. I would say the students are probably the most excited.”
Here are the East Bay 2010 Distinguished Elementary Schools listed by district:
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Knightsen Elementary District: Knightsen Elementary School
Lafayette Elementary District: Happy Valley Elementary School
Mt. Diablo Unified District: Delta View and Hidden Valley elementary schoools
Oakley Union Elementary District: Iron House Elementary School
Orinda Union Elementary District: Del Rey Elementary School
Orinda Union Elementary District: Sleepy Hollow Elementary School
San Ramon Valley Unified District: Coyote Creek, Hidden Hills, Live Oak, Rancho Romero, Sycamore Valley and Vista Grande elementary schools
Berkeley Unified District: Jefferson and Oxford elementary schools
Fremont Unified District: Ardenwood, Cabrillo, E. M. Grimmer, Fred E. Weibel, James Leitch, John Gomes, Joshua Chadbourne, Mission San Jose and Mission Valley elementary schools
Livermore Valley Joint Unified District: Joe Michell Elementary
New Haven Unified District: Tom Kitayama Elementary
Oakland Unified District: Chabot, Montclair, Peralta and Thornhill elementary schools
Pleasanton Unified District: Henry P. Mohr Elementary
The complete list of 2010 California Distinguished Elementary Schools is at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/sr/cs/disting2010.asp.
Congratulations to all!
By Theresa Harrington