By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 11:49 pm in Education.
Ed Trust-West released a report today that showed most unified school districts in the state are not doing enough to adequately educate low-income and minority students.
The report issued grades of A through F to the 146 largest districts in California, based on student test performance, improvement, achievement gaps and college readiness.
Here’s how East Bay districts stacked up against each other overall:
C+: San Ramon Valley
C: Castro Valley
C-: Pleasanton, Livermore Valley, San Lorenzo, San Leandro
D+: Berkeley, Fremont, New Haven
D: Hayward, Oakland, West Contra Costa, Alameda City, Antioch, Mt. Diablo
The San Ramon Valley district’s C+ was the highest grade in the Bay Area, but didn’t change from last year. Three percent of the district’s students are low income, 2 percent African American and 8 percent Latino.
The district scored A’s for performance levels among students of color and among low-income students. But it scored a D for improvement among students of color, a C for improvement among low-income students, a D for the size of the achievement gap between African-American and white students, and a B for the size of achievement gap between Latinos and whites. College readiness among students of color rated a B.
The Mt. Diablo district got the lowest score in the East Bay, retaining its overall “D” rating from 2010. But it slipped from 138th to 144th when compared to other districts that improved since the previous report card.
West Contra Costa surpassed Mt. Diablo in 2011, jumping from last on the list at 146th with an “F” to a D overall at 133rd. It showed dramatic progress in college readiness, soaring from an “F” in 2010 up to a “B.” Mt. Diablo earned a “D’ in college readiness both years.
About 68 percent of students in West Contra Costa are low-income, compared to 40 percent in Mt. Diablo. Nearly half of West Contra Costa’s students are Latino and 15 percent are African-American. In Mt. Diablo, 36 percent of students are Latino and 5 percent are African-American.
West Contra Costa board President Charles Ramsey said the district is working very hard, despite budget challenges.
Mt. Diablo district trustee Linda Mayo said a closer look at the data on the Ed Trust website reveals that the district improved slightly in some categories, although not enough to boost its grades to a higher level.
For example, the district’s rank rose when compared to other districts in four out of seven areas, including improvement among students of color. The district remained the same in performance levels of students of color and college readiness, she said. The district’s rank dropped slightly in the size of its achievement gap between white students and those who are African-American and Latino, she said.
Mayo said the district is already pursuing many of the ideas recommended by Ed Trust.
These include focusing on excellence in instruction and maintaining high expectations for student performance; establishing Professional Learning Communities (which involves collaboration between teachers and administrators on campuses), providing professional development; and analyzing student test data.
“School sites are using that,” she said. “Teachers are meeting in teams to assess student performance.”
She acknowledged that the district needs to invest more in technology, but it plans to use some funds from its $348 million Measure C school construction bond measure approved by voters in 2010.
Mayo said pacing guides, which are recommended in the report, have been controversial in the district. Finally, she said extra supports and investments recommended in the report are difficult right now because of budget constraints. However, Mayo said she is advocating for teacher voice amplifiers, which help hear instruction better.
In addition, Superintendent Steven Lawrence sent me an e-mail, including a list of programs and practices the district has put in place during the past 18 months to address the learning needs of all students.
“The (district’s) Department of Student Achievement and School Support is dedicated to the success of all students within the Mt. Diablo Unified School District,” he wrote. “To that end, the focus of our work has been providing teachers and administrators with the best tools and strategies to meet the needs of their learners.”
Here is the list of actions taken to help close the achievement gap, which includes some of the things mentioned by Mayo:
“• A new student data system has been purchased and teacher leaders/administrators have been trained to utilize the various components of the system, including student achievement data collection and comparison, progress monitoring, intervention grouping, and assessment tools.
• District benchmarks have been administered in both elementary and middle schools and teams of teachers/administrators have received training in effective analysis of data. Student progress is being tracked by grade level and subject area within schools, by class and period, by subgroups of students, and by individual students.
• During each data analysis period, teacher teams examine student progress toward proficiency on essential standards, and select focus standards for the next instructional period. Instructional strategies are selected by teacher teams; many schools have identified methods of regrouping students for daily intervention/acceleration within the school day.
• At both the elementary and secondary levels, teachers have identified essential standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to focus on the critical learnings required for students to be able to move successfully from one grade level to the next.
• Teachers have been trained to identify and understand proficiency levels, and have written performance level descriptors for all essential standards. This work is helping teachers to understand levels of rigor and to raise the level of expectation in the classroom.
• At the elementary level, hundreds of teachers have been trained in two high-leverage strategies, BoardMath and BoardLanguage. These strategies are particularly effective with students who respond to opportunities for oral language review/preview (specifically, African American students and English Learners), but benefit all other learners as well.
• All principals’ meetings include professional development for administrators, with a focus on understanding the use of assessment and performance data, creating Response to Instruction plans, and supporting instructional rigor.
• An English Learner Task Force has developed a draft of a Master Plan for English Learners. This plan establishes instructional programs and best practice that will be followed throughout the district in order to meet the needs of our English Learners.
• The SASS Department, in collaboration with other district departments, is writing a Professional Development Plan that will be followed over the next five years. This Plan focuses on the effective use of assessment and data; standards-based instruction; high-leverage strategies to engage all students; and collaborative professional dialogue.
• Instructional materials for English Language Development have been purchased at the elementary and middle school levels.
• Teacher leaders have been engaged regularly through grade-level symposiums, data analysis days, professional trainings and workshops, instructional committees (i.e. Essential Standards, PLD, and Report Card committees)
• The SASS Department and the Department of Special Education/Student Services have been meeting to identify challenges and intervention strategies currently in place at schools and develop some immediate responses to address the critical needs.
• The Department is currently finalizing a professional development initiative that will embed Response to Instruction ractices in classrooms throughout the district. The plan will include both academic and behavioral response with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”
How do you think districts should improve instruction for low-income and minority students?