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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. MoMx3 Says:

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

  2. 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.

  3. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  6. 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.

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  9. 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 ?

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  11. 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” ?

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. Doctor J Says:

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

  15. g Says:

    Thanks! Now I’m really ticked!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

  19. 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).

  20. 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!

  21. Doctor J Says:

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

  27. 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 . . .

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  31. 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 ?

  32. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  34. 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.

  35. 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:

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

  39. 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.

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

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

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