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A closer look at the Ed Trust-West district report card in the East Bay

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?

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90 Responses to “A closer look at the Ed Trust-West district report card in the East Bay”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    What Lawrence did NOT tell you or share with you is that the 2012 “benchmarks” do NOT show significant improvements over last year’s “one point API gain” districtwide. Ask him to share with you the recent benchmarks [3rd and final] that only show marginal improvement at some schools, lower scores at some schools and only a few schools making any significant progress. Supt. Lawrence, you tout the “benchmarks” so show them to us — ALL three of them — and make us believers.

  2. Doctor J Says:

    Steven, show us the comparisons between the school by school, grade level by grade level, “benchmarks” for the three benchmarks each year between school years 2010-11 and 2011-12: you now have all three benchmarks for each year. These comparisons will show which schools are making progress and which aren’t. If you don’t have them, I am sure Asst. Supt. SASS Rose Lock has them. Show us the proof that your two year plan is producing significant improvement. Otherwise, most people believe it isn’t. Do you believe the data or not ? Lets stop playing musical chairs among administrators and protecting the “old gang” network.

  3. Seriously... Says:

    The district should contact the top 3 ranking schools and model their approach. The graduation standards and requirements should be improved and be consistent across this state. A college placement and mentor program should be established if not already in place. The standards and opportunity for college entrance will only become harder in this state as the CSU system becomes more strapped.

  4. Anon Says:

    Props to Linda Mayo for answering your phone call and providing cognizant responses. We’d like more information about the specific technology that would assist low-income and minority students, and with Measure C funds available why the district does not have this technology in place yet.

  5. Doctor J Says:

    OMG, Linda Mayo knows that PLC’s were in use prior to SASS — why aren’t they working ? Linda, show us the DATA ! Show us that it is working or not working. The Benchmark comparisons for all three benchmarks per year for both years are now available, school by school and grade by grade for each school. Hold principals and staffs accountable for progress — no significant progress after two years, and they are gone. Children only have one chance for their educations — lets not waste another generation of children while we coddle inept administrators who are supposed to be “instructional leaders” under the SASS formula.

  6. Just J Says:

    Well said Dr. J #5! We only have one shot at educating kids.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon: FYI, Board President Sherry Whitmarsh and Trustee Cheryl Hansen also returned my calls and left messages, but I didn’t get a chance to speak to them.
    Regarding technology, there is a new technology committee that is looking into this issue. However, the board agreed that technology was a lower priority than solar and HVAC when it approved the Measure C schedule. When high schools started complaining about not seeing any of the money for years, the board quickly approved $1.5 million for each of them to get started on their wish lists. Also, technology infrastructure is being put into place. But, students may not see actual technology in the classroom paid for with Measure C for a few years. Measure C is a seven-year plan and Pedersen told the BOC that he isn’t very familiar with the latest classroom technology, so he is relying on the technology committee to come up with a list to implement.

  8. Wait a minute Says:

    Measure C was nothing more then a front for the Solar and all its dirty dealis and backscratching for Eberhart, Whitmarsh (who tried here best to get Stevie Lawrence to steer the contract to her employer Chevron) and Pederson and his gang to make tons of money off of it.

    The facts speak for themselves about how low a priority it is in putting any money into the classrooms to help our children learn which is supposed to be the mission of this district.

    “Where failed Administrators and Board Members and their Cronies’ inetrests come first”!!!

  9. Doctor J Says:

    The abnormally rapid and detailed response of Lawrence and Board Members to the embarrassing Ed Trust-West report is so unusual it probably means only one thing: Lawrence is a candidate for another Supt job and they want him to get it ! If true, such a moral dilemna.

  10. Anon Says:

    Perhaps the schools should get I pads and use Kahn academy for math. There are many apps that can be used and will enhance the education of every student from advanced to special Ed and low income minority students.

    The district thinks technology is getting I pads for the teacher but not the students.

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon#10 Sorry, iPads for SASS administrators but not for students. You would be surprised to see how little of the grant money gets down to the students ! When Theresa gets around to posting the SIG grant spending reports, you will see that schools like Bel Air have no idea on how they are are going to spend $2 Million dollars on 400 students.

  12. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I am attending an Education Writers conference regarding SIGs. One speaker said: One way to successfully reform schools is to make it an honor to assign a principal to a low-performing school, the way the best doctors are assigned tough cases
    Speakers also said districts implementing the transformation model are taking the easy way out and that turnaround is much bolder.

  13. Doctor J Says:

    Nothing prohibits a district from establishing financial incentives to administrators — aka performance bonuses — and paying with SIG funds EXCEPT MDUSD chose not to include that in either round of the SIG grants. Also, paying bonuses to the SIG teachers for increased performance in their class is also permissible, but would require MDEA approval.

  14. Doctor J Says:

    I am told that both the new principals at Meadow Homes and Oak Grove wanted to do and requested permission to the “turnaround” model where 50% of the staff was replaced, but the district leadership including Lawrence, Browne, Braun-Martin and Lock chickened out — too much work.

  15. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Doctor J #14:

    Wow . . . times 10.

    If your statement is verifiable, it is definitely newsworthy.

    If this was previously reported in the press, I must have missed it.

    There’s no such thing as “too much work” when it comes to doing whatever it takes to improve academic performance!

  16. Doctor J Says:

    @WL#14 — Just ask the principals and watch the tap dance.

  17. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I did ask the Principal of Meadow Homes and she said that wasn’t true. In fact, she said the school is lucky that all the teachers want to return and that many are seeking National Board Certification. She said she wants the school to become a district model for teachers honing their craft.

  18. g Says:

    The rest of us would like to see it be a district model for educating the children—by teachers who “honed their craft” before they got the permanent job and tenure.

    Could the average 10th grade English Lit teacher pass a 10th grade final math test, cold, without warning? How about a 10th grade math teacher passing grammar and vocabulary tests? If not, they have no business being in any classroom–because they themselves are under-educated!

    Would you give a guy a 747 with 500 people on board to “hone his craft”??? Apparently we do it every day with our children and their education.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the conference I’m attending, a speaker said one problem with the way high schools plan is that they do it by dept. One school decided to change that and have teachers collaborate by grade level. This made a dramatic difference, because they were all focused on the same group of kids.

  20. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#17 She may deny it, but it happened. One of the emails I saw during the fall before Cohort 2 SIG grants were sent to CDE said “I am concerned about pursuing the turnaround model at Meadow Homes and Oak Grove…” She may say that all her teachers at MH want to return, but I heard there were two handfuls of teachers at SIG schools, the highest amount being from MH, that have requested “involuntary transfers” to other non-SIG schools. If that is verified, that would hurt her credibility on both counts.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    Has anyone asked the Oak Grove MS Principal ? I doubt she will deny that she was in favor of the “turnaround” model but was shot down. If she does . . .

  22. **anon Says:

    @TH (#19); i’m hoping that the SASS Dept is paying attention to the dramatic difference that focusing on grade levels in high school, rather than depts, provides high school students a better education. With a child who is currently in high school in this district, I am astounded that in elementary school the state standards at each grade level are stringently adhered to; my younger child entered middle school and both the high school and the middle school teachers/administrators don’t even acknowledge or teach the state standards for each grade level. In my personal experience with my own children in this district, the CA State Standards are paramount at each grade level in elementary school. But, in middle and high school the teachers decide the curriculum and haven’t been able to explain to me what CA State Standard they’re teaching at any particular time. Middle and High School teachers put too much emphasis on assignments/homework completion than they do on teaching the CA State Standards and each student’s mastery of those standards.

  23. frustratedteacher Says:

    What I find interesting is how much criticism there is for the teachers, administrators, and distric personnel. There is NO mention of how parent involvement improves scores. Most teachers and administrators know what needs to be done to improve scores and close the achievement gap. However, the state is consistently cutting funding for the extra support we need. Also, inappropriate behaviors and a lack of respect on the part of many students, prohibits teachers from following through with their lesson plans. Many students are rude and disrespectful and I believe this behavior falls on the students and their parents. We, as educators, need the support of parents; parents who take their child’s education seriously and who do not allow their students to be disruptive at school without any consequences. If more students followed the school rules and showed some respect, teaching would improve, scores would go up, the achievement gap would be smaller and it would be a WIN WIN for everyone.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @#22 When you look at the current and revised “org charts” for SASS you see why: ALL School Support administrators NOW report directly to Asst Supt Rose Lock, and not to the two Directors of Secondary Ed and Elementary Ed, a HUGE CHANGE from the original org charts proposed in May 2010, and those attached to both the Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 SIG grants where the School Support Administrators, dubbed as the Coaches to the Principals, used to report to the Directors, and therefore had continuity. This lack of continuity in organization is made even worse by the one year tenure of Denise Rugani as Director of Secondary Ed, a gap in leadership and now the one school year tenure of an “interim director” so that the position can be “saved” for Sue Brothers until she gets her “one year as principal” so she can qualify for the job. The problem is that you have a Supt and an Asst Supt that have no organizational behavior leadership training and just keep playing chess when things aren’t working, while being afraid to hold administrators accountable for failures.

  25. teacher Says:

    I am concerned that our Board member found it necessary to find loopholes in the report rather than accept that we continue to fail our low-income and minority students and discuss how we can SPECIFICALLY improve instruction for those students. The PLCs provide a methodology for analyzing results and addressing weak skills, but in order to close the achievement gap, district and school staff must review the results by student name (individual) and group (e.g. EL, low-income). If we continue to look at programs, results, etc. for ALL students (Lawrence)- we will continue to perpetuate the achievement gap. On the other hand, if we improve instruction/results for our “gap” students, results will improve for ALL students.

  26. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Palo Alto, which scored just below MDUSD, has a Student Equity Action Network and a “We Can Do Better Palo Alto” parent and community group that appear to be advocating for change. Although the MDUSD board adopted an Equity Policy, it’s unclear what has changed since that policy was adopted.
    A member of the Palo Alto group said: “Embarrassment is often a good impetus for change.”
    Do you think MDUSD’s leadership is embarrassed by the report card? Do you think it will be an impetus for change?
    At the School Improvement Grant conference I just attended, speakers said most superintendents and district administrators are hired and fired based on student achievement. Do you think that’s true in MDUSD?

  27. Doctor J Says:

    @Teach#25 Spot on ! @#26 Lawrence has “no shame” — he just shifts the blame. Lawrence only achieved a SINGLE point API gain in the district for yr 10/11 — yes just one point — now that should have been embarrassing. But what he is not willing to do is to release the the Benchmark testing results subject by subject, grade level by grade level, and school by school that will show that very few schools are making progress under SASS even after two years of “rigorous” Benchmark testing THREE times a year in both Math and Language to show a comparison of years 2010/11 and 2011/12. If Lawrence’s “plan” [he really has none] was working, we would have seen massive gains in API for 10/11 and in the benchmarks for 11/12. While Lawrence was in West Sacramento, there were no gains, but only gains since the new Supt put reforms in place. Lawrence’s track record of academic performance is not one of success. Now we wait for his surpise weapon — appointment of Sue Brothers as Director of Secondary in SASS. Lawrence’s record is Brother’s record.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @#23 Frustrated Teach: Not a single practice Lawrence has put into place the last 18 months has included parent involvement — its all district and school based — read Lawrence’s email above. In fact, when you read the MDUSD SIG grant applications that cover five of the worst performing schools in California, there was zero parental involvement in development of those plans. Nada. It was all district developed with rubber stamp review by the school site administration.
    So my question is WHY aren’t you standing up in your faculty meetings and screaming for change ? Why doesn’t your Single Plan for Student Achievement at your school address this issue ?

  29. teacher Says:

    @#26 Last time I looked at the draft district Strategic Plan there was no mention of closing or even directly addressing the achievment gap. It obviously needs to be a focus for MDUSD. It sounds like the Palo Alto approach has promise for change.

    I hope that the Board will look at the English Learner Task Force draft Master Plan in its entirety (as developed by the committee) and consider the major changes it proposes. Our EL and low socie-economic communities do not have the “voice” of other groups. Perhaps the recent notoriety will create the outrage that our students and families need to create a Palo Alto-like change advocacy group.

  30. frustratedteacher Says:

    Dr J.

    What makes you think my school’s plan for Student Achievement does NOT address this issue. Our plan DOES have a parent component. Regardless of whether or not this is in a site’s plan, parents need to help reinforce the importance of school and the expectation that their children will respect the teachers so that teachers could focus on curriculum rather than behavior.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    @Teach#29 How many parents were included on the English Learner Task Force ? If there were some, did any of them ONLY speak a language other than English ?

  32. Doctor J Says:

    @FrustrTeach#30 Apparently the Supt and SASS do not think a parent component is the “answer” since they don’t include it in their strategy.
    As for your prior comment that the state is cutting the extra support: Not enough money ? I don’t think you have been following the money. Lets take Bel Air’s SIG Grant — Yr. 10/11 Award: $1,441,662 Excess Not Spent: $593,259.14.
    Yr. 11/12 Award: $1,441,662 plus carryover of $259,714.14 for total available in 11/12: $1,701,376. With approximately 400 children at Bel Air, that amounts to about $4,200 PER CHILD to spend this school year at Bel Air.
    Not enough “extra” money ? Well, they didn’t spend all their money last year and have “carryover”. Bel Air could afford a private tutor for every child in the school if they wanted to.

  33. teacher Says:

    @Doctor J #31 I don’t know the exact number of parents though I believe there was a handful. I don’t know the languages they spoke. There were also high school students and a few community members who were not directly connected to MDUSD.

  34. teacher Says:

    @Doctor J #31 You could also look at the EL Draft Master Plan on the district website.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    @Teacher#34 I took a look at the 1/23/12 Draft Master Plan on the EL Page of SASS, and didn’t see anywhere in that plan or on that page that identified the members of the Task Force. Also interesting was the lack of a discussion of the California Constitution mandate of Proposition 227.

  36. anon** Says:

    @Dr j (#27): you’re correct – Lawrence’s “shift the focus” and “shift the blame” are his ways of dealing with his most important responsibility: improving the educational opportunities for all students in this district. @frustrated teacher #30: is part of your single plan tied into the district’s responsibility to find an alternative placement for students who are continually disruptive?

  37. frustratedteacher Says:

    Dr. J

    I agree with you about the SIG grant money and a few of our schools, however, we are not all receiving anywhere near that amount.

    My real point is that at some point parents need to accept some responsiblity ALSO in teaching their children to behave and be respectful at school.

  38. Doctor J Says:

    @FT#37 Yes, we could all hope that every parent could accomplish that with their children. The reality is that not all will or are capable for various reasons. That does not lessen the responsibility of public education to do the best they can. For way too long we have been comfortable with seeing scores improve for the “upper echelon” and widening the “achievement gap”. Our job is to move every student up the learning ladder, no matter their background or learning circumstances. That doesn’t mean every child will end up at the top of the ladder, but many can do much better than they are now doing. Finding new successful ways of teaching does not always cost an arm and a leg. But it does take us old dogs willing to learn new tricks.

  39. Zweb Says:

    I agree 110% with #37 concerning parent responsibility. There doesn’t appear to be high level in low performing schools and I think that is the prime cause of low grades and not teachers, admin, or programs.

  40. Anon Says:

    Whoa Nellie! Don’t let admin off the hook. MDUSD has no excuses-it doesn’t have the poorest community or the highest minority population by a long shot-but still gained the dubious distinction of having the highest proportion of chronically low-performing schools in the state (idk whether this changed with Glenbrook closure). Look around and see what other districts are doing-parent intervention and other programs. There is some principals like dear departed Denise Rugani who understand discipline, and there are some teachers who can control a classroom without yelling. MDUSD has the “kids” for 7-8 hours a day and during that time take charge and stop blaming the parents!

  41. Anon Says:

    typo-“are” some principals

  42. Jim Says:

    Zweb — There is surely an overlap between low academic performance and the socio-economic factors (including low parent involvement/responsibility) found in low-performing schools. But when I look at MDUSD’s so-called “high-performing” schools — which are actually NOT so high-performing when compared to schools with similar demographics across the state — I see a discouraging amount of incompetence, dysfunction, and lack of accountability. Take any neighborhood in the MDUSD monopoly, and you will find that the local schools usually under-perform schools across the state and country that are serving similar neighborhoods. We could spend a lot of time identifying the “prime” causes of that discrepancy, but I am unwilling to let the teachers, site administrators, and especially the district off the hook. The job in any organization is to make the most out of the factors at hand, and there is no evidence that MDUSD makes the most out of the challenges, or opportunities, that our communities offer.

  43. anon Says:

    Frustrated teacher has hit the proverbial nail on the head!
    I see kids come to school, in K-2 with no homework, no indication at all that their parents have any clue what their kids are up to. Many NCLB parents are under the impression that a simple change in geographical location will provide a better education for their children. For some kids it will, but if the parents are not making sure their young children are doing their homework, and making it very clear that education is a top priority, nothing will improve.
    I speak only from the K-3 years as that is where I am right now with my kids. These youngsters need to learn how to be good students, and their parents need to be involved in their education.
    It breaks my heart to see the same kids coming late (30+ minutes daily). They have no control over getting to school on time, and they are learning from their parents that school is not a priority.
    I know many parent groups offer parenting education, but as usual, those who need it don’t bother to show up.
    It is just a vicious circle that will continue, and drag the rest of us down, as everything tends to go towards the lowest common denominator.
    I am hoping that the Charter High School starts setting some standards for mandatory parent involvement as a condition of attendance, so that other schools will follow!

  44. Doctor J Says:

    Is Mt. Diablo USD doing ALL it can to promote parental involvement in Title I schools ? When you read this CDE Brochure, you will see that MDUSD is wandering in the desert, lost once again, without leadership in this area. “This brochure lists what the California Department of Education, local educational agencies (LEAs), and schools MUST do to promote parental involvement in schools that receive Title I funds. The information is based on requirements found in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001.”

  45. Anon Says:

    A few months ago I went to San Francisco to hear two of the most respected researchers from Yale and the congressional leads from NIH on reading. They reported that a child from the poorest area with very little parental involvement will still learn. It is hard wired in their brains to want to please.

    Teachers who sit around and blame the family’s should not be teaching! Open your eyes and take a look at your boss. Pay close attention to the programs and training you are getting. Oh and use google to look up the latest research on teaching children. I am sure there are some children that out of control because of the parents but you can’t blame the failure of this district on parents!

  46. g Says:

    Would someone please give me a link to the current District Bylaws.

  47. Mdusd Employee Says:

    Go to Gamut Online, use Public as name and MDUSD as password. All the Policies and Bylaws are in there.

  48. g Says:

    Thank you!

  49. anon** Says:

    @anon#45: I couldn’t agree more. And I admire that you have taken it upon yourself to research how and what is important in teaching reading. I am so tired of parents who believe that it’s theirparenting and involvement that have given their children what they need to do well in school. The research shows that the number 1 factor in a student’s academic success is the teacher and there is NO research that supports homework improves learning. So for all the parents and teachers (like anon #43 “their parents need to be involved in their education”) your criticism of parents not making sure their child does their homework, has no relevance. And you aren’t helping your children any more than the parents you’re criticizing – and thanks to anon #45, I got Yale backing me up!

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Research shows relevance, rigor and relationships help improve student learning. In some low-performing schools, teachers make home visits and reach out to families, to build relationships and help parents understand what’s going on at school.

  51. MoMx3 Says:

    I do believe “relevance, rigor and relationships” are one of the motto’s of the new CV charter school. Imagine that?

  52. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yes, a lot of progressive schools and districts are using the “3 R’s” as their motto because this is research-based and proven to be effective.
    The problem that can occur sometimes, though, is when a school or district’s actions don’t reflect their motto.
    It’s easy to say, but could be more challenging to implement. All eyes will be on CVCHS to see how well they are able to accomplish this.

    Regarding parent involvement, both Meadow Homes and Oak Grove have included some level of parent outreach in their SIG applications.
    Meadow Homes has devoted one of its six strategies to this: “Parent education and partnerships. Provide workshops and educational meeting for parents about how to help their students and how to access and negotiate the educational and health services in the area. (Aligned with district need to increase instructional time and parent involvement.)”
    One of Oak Grove’s two strategies includes community outreach: “Increased learning time and creating a community-oriented school that supports academic, social and emotional needs of students. Aligned with district need to increase instructional time and school climate.”
    How do you “increase” a school climate? Perhaps they meant “improve” school climate.

  53. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, the district has released its open house schedules.
    Here’s the elementary schedule:
    Here’s the secondary schedule:

  54. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In case you missed it, Pleasant Hill MS seventh-grader Nick Lambert won the Contra Costa County Spelling Bee!
    Congrats! :)

  55. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It looks like the US Dept. of Ed. is relaxing its rules that turnaround SIGs replace 50 percent of their staff:

  56. g Says:

    Interesting comments on that article Theresa. I tend to think of programs like this being more for making sure the fat education beast (consultants, conferences, etc) is being kept well fed, but maybe getting rid of more expensive teachers has a bit to do with it too.

  57. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, a lot of districts are moving ahead with Transitional Kindergarten:

  58. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a US Dept. of Ed. blog post about a turnaround school:

  59. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#58 It was a combination of SIG grant AND Teacher Incentive Funding grants. I wonder why MDUSD didn’t apply for the Teacher Incentive Funding Grants ? As you read the SIG grant the only “teacher incentive” given is a “pat on the back” acknowledgment. Perhaps Lawrence, Eberhart, Mayo, Whitmarsh, and Lock can answer the question, Why didn’t MDUSD apply for these Teacher Incentive Grants ?

  60. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is another US Dept. of Ed. blog post on the turning around low-performing schools and SIGs:

  61. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#60 In 2010/11, MDUSD only gain ONE API point districtwide [awful] but 3 of 4 of the SIG schools in MDUSD had double digit API increases [wonderful] — but so did Meadow Homes — a non SIG school — which had a 53 API gain [fantastic], second only to Rio Vista’s 66 point gain. Bel Air’s 25 API gain and Shore Acre’s 13 point gain were very respectable. The irony is that Tobey Montez got fired for his 53 point gain but the Pleasant Hill Elem principal remained in place with a 29 point loss ! It will be interesting to see how Dr. Mary-Louise Newling does in her first year at Meadow Homes.
    The article you cited notes two important ingredients of success: (1)a dynamic leader who is deeply committed to the students and the surrounding community. (2) Teachers who share a relentless focus on improving instruction, both through expanded collaboration and the use of data. You can pretty much judge a school’s API increase by these two factors.
    Speaking of data, Lawrence now has the data from all 3 “Benchmarks” for the last two years for every school, every grade level, and individual subjects, which should predict any improvement from last school year to this school year — and he’s not releasing that information. You can bet your bottom dollar, if the data was positive, he would be releasing it ! Let’s see the comparisons ! Are the Benchmarks working to improve the education of the students or just “testing them to death” ?

  62. g Says:

    Dr J: Every time scores are brought up, and there is discussion about dynamic leaders and teachers, I will remind this district that without benefit of SIG or even a visit by a board member, Holbrook Elementary went from an API of just 706 in 2007 up 20 points in 2008, 13 points in 2009, 50 points in 2010, and I believe they were on track for another 23 points in 2011, but, I suppose we’ll never know for sure, since the District saw fit to “toss” the school AND lose a dynamic Principal all in one fell swoop by throwing the baby out with the “dirty lying budget” bath water, and then to further cover their bad judgement, they chose to omit any record of the school’s gains in 2011!

    Did any other Elementary school show a 100+ point improvement in those same 4 years?

    And, just how much money has been saved? Well, at least now we have Measure C paying for all of the Gas and Electric and Pete’s and SunPower’s new office supplies and furniture.

  63. g Says:

    Or, thinking further on that, did the district, in fact, include Holbrook’s 2011 gains? Without them would the district have, in fact, lost API points instead of “gaining” one little point?

  64. Doctor J Says:

    @G#63 Holbrook is included by the state. Plus 39.

  65. g Says:

    Thanks! Now I’m really ticked!

  66. Theresa Harrington Says:

    In response to the publication of this blog post in the CC Times, a reader sent me the following column, which focuses on comments by a school superintendent in Austin, Texas, who is ticked about testing, inequitable funding and the loss of local control in his state:
    Anthony Cody, who posted the piece, was a panelist at the SIG conference I attended. He strongly opposed the idea of turning over 50 percent of the staff at a school and instead advocated for staff development and community-building.
    The bad teachers, he said, will leave when they are asked to open their classroom doors and collaborate. The mediocre teachers, who want to do better, will learn and improve, he said.

  67. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s an interesting blog post about companies that are trying to help districts turn around schools:
    A Mass Insight rep spoke at the SIG conference I attended on the topic: “The Power of Partnerships: How Successful Turnarounds Leverage Resources.”

  68. Doctor J Says:

    @G#62 Gains of 100 plus API points ? The only one I can see is Delta View that had gains in 2008 of 64 and 2009 of 82 and lost 5 in 2010 for a net of 141 gain. Got the principal a promotion to Director of Elementary in SASS — Sue Petersen. Prior to that in 2006 and 2007 there had been losses of 10 points each year. What happened to that former principal ? Got her a promotion to Director of Personnel and now Asst Supt of Personnel — Julie Braun-Martin. Funny how MDUSD promotes no matter the success level.

  69. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Petersen was a panelist at the TK hearing. She said MDUSD will definitely implement TK (even though the board hasn’t yet confirmed that).

  70. g Says:

    Theresa, thank you. John Kuhn–just wow!

    Can someone explain to me why API records indicate only 57-58% of students are included? Is there some kind of cherry-picking of who is tested? Or am I just reading something into it that isn’t there?

    Yes, I am not a teacher–obviously!

  71. Doctor J Says:

    @G#70 In elementary, not all grade levels are tested and not in all subjects.

  72. Doctor J Says:

    Very ironic that principals and teachers had to attend Susan Bonilla’s TK hearing yesterday to get answers from SASS about what is happening in MDUSD — where is the internal communication ? And why hasn’t the Board been presented with the District’s plan for TK ? Next meeting isn’t for 3 1/2 weeks.

  73. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Actually, there is a study session planned at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss accelerating the bond sales (and increasing the tax rate):
    Unfortunately, there is no staff report.
    Regarding TK, I am also surprised there has been no new information presented to the board. When I asked Trustee Linda Mayo about this last week, she said she hadn’t looked at the governor’s bill and didn’t know about the most recent changes, but she expected TK to come back to the board. She was also at the hearing.

  74. g Says:

    The sooner they spend down the Bond money, the shorter the life of the Pedersen Inc. team’s planned 10 year payroll. Look for his staff to poo-poo the accelerated tech idea, or look for ways to transition other expenditures out to a longer end date.

    And Mayo is asleep at the wheel. Why did she run again in 2010? Oh yeah, $24,000 in stipend and MDV. Visiting schools for a few minutes and 2-3 meetings a month is really easy work at two grand a month!

  75. Doctor J Says:

    Isn’t Pedersen Inc. team subject to yearly income restrictions against his CalPers or is it CalStrs retirement, after which it reduces the retirement benefit dollar for dollar ?
    There is no way that Eberhart and Whitmarsh can vote for the benefits to stay and expect to win the election. I expect the only vote in favor will be Mayo. If Dennler votes for keeping the full benefits, it will assure her recall on the November ballot.

  76. g Says:

    Here’s a good look at an analysis that was done last year for both systems:

    I have no idea where mdusd staff sits. Is there a publication showing specific retiree pay?

  77. Anon Says:

    I can’t make Monday but want to see televised or video. I’m anxious to hear how they’ll spend Measure C funds on technology to close the achievement gap, as Mayo proudly announced . . .

  78. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I will be able to attend, but it means I’ll have to miss the CVCHS lottery, which is at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
    I’ll try to videotape, since the district didn’t make an audio recording of its last study session.

  79. Doctor J Says:

    Mayo will NOT stand up to Lawrence or Eberhart on demanding that Meas C funds be used for technology to close the achievement gap. She will not even question it. She will just accept that staff has made a different decision.

  80. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FYI, middle and high school students are invited to a free Youth Summit on Bullying tomorrow in Pittsburg:

  81. Doctor J Says:

    Another Brown Act violation — no PAC agenda posted on the District Website 72 hours prior to the meeting. What kind of examples to our youth is the leadership of MDUSD openly flaunting violation of the law ?

  82. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I see the CAC agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting is posted:

  83. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WCCUSD has released its 2012-13 calendar, with school starting Aug. 20:

  84. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The CAC will receive a report on the district’s intervention strategies related to bullying and harassment tomorrow:
    The above blog post includes many links to other related resources.

  85. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a story about cheating that quotes MDHS teacher Dan Reynolds saying it’s not a big problem in his classes:

  86. Doctor J Says:

    How long will it take MDUSD to implement these new strategies to encourage parent involvement ? Yesterday, State Supt. Torlakson released information about this new tool. New Tool to Help School Districts Get Families and Community Involved in Students’ Education. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson yesterday released a new, free publication, Family Engagement Framework, a Tool for California School Districts, to help school districts engage families in their children’s education.
    The Framework describes 18 principles that are essential for family and community involvement with the school district. These principles are grouped into five action areas to: (1) help school districts build the skills and confidence of parents, (2) demonstrate leadership, (3) use resources, (4) monitor progress, and (5) ensure access and equity for everyone. Specific actions to engage families and the community are described for each principle, ranging from basic to progressive to innovative. The Framework is outlined in a way to help school districts evaluate their progress and plan for improvements. By reading the press release, you can find the link to the new publication.

  87. g Says:

    In typical Lawrence fashion, he puts out a letter nearly a week later than promised, and then SHUFFLES the Options, CHANGES some Option results, and expects people to answer a poll of 1? 2? or 3?

    Some will answer based on the Power Point. Some will answer based on his letter. How will we know if we have a consensus? In the end, we’ll get what he and master-mind Isom want us to get.

  88. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here is a new book about “The essential role of distriicts” in Turnaround Schools that has garnered good reviews:

  89. Doctor J Says:

    Nice book — all our SIG schools use the transformation model, not turnaround model — have not yet seen any efforts by our district to partner with the SIG schools since we have 5 of them. Interestingly, the one Amazon review was by Dr. Trent Kaufman, formerly a VP at Dublin High who started an educational consultant company with former Dublin School District Board member Randy Shumway.

  90. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a new report by the Center For American Progress about teaching English learners:

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