The filing period for local candidates planning to run for open seats in the Nov. 6 election opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10, unless an incumbent fails to file for re-election. In that case, the deadline is automatically extended to Aug. 15, according to political reporter Lisa Vorderbrueggen, who has compiled a long list of open seats in local agencies.
Here’s an excerpt of her list, which includes school board openings in Contra Costa and Alameda counties:
Acalanes Union High School District (two seats)
Antioch Unified School District (three seats)
Brentwood Union School District (two seats)
Byron Union School District (two seats)
Canyon Elementary School District (two seats)
Contra Costa County Board of Education (two seats)
Contra Costa Community College District (two seats, wards 2 and 5)
Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (one seat, Ward 7)
John Swett Unified School District (two seats)
Knightsen School District (three seats)
Lafayette School District (two seats)
Liberty Union High School District (two seats)
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (two seats)
Martinez Unified School District (three seats)
Moraga School District (two seats)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District (two seats)
Oakley Union Elementary School District (two seats)
Orinda Union School District (two seats)
Pittsburg Unified School District (three seats)
San Ramon Valley Unified School district (two seats)
Walnut Creek School District (two seats)
West Contra Costa Unified School District (two seats)
Alameda Unified School District (three seats)
Castro Valley Unified School District (three seats)
Dublin Unified School District (three seats)
Fremont Unified School District (three seats)
Hayward Unified School District (three seats)
Livermore Unified School District (two seats)
Mount House Elementary (one seat)
New Haven Unified School District (three seats)
Newark Unified School District (three seats)
Pleasanton Unified School District (three seats)
San Leandro Unified School district (three seats)
San Lorenzo Unified School District (four seats)
Sunol Glen Unified School district (1 seat)
In the Mt. Diablo district, incumbents Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh have not yet publicly announced whether they intend to seek re-election. The teachers’ union has endorsed challengers Brian Lawrence and Attila Gabor. District residents Ernie DeTrinidad and Debra Mason have also told me they intend to run.
What are you looking for in a candidate?
AUG. 22 UPDATE: I have received a phone call from Mt. Diablo teachers’ union President Guy Moore informing me that MDEA has endorsed retired College Park HS Principal Barbara Oaks, now that Attila Gabor has pulled out of the race due to health concerns.
Earlier this week, the California Department of Education released improved data for high school graduation and dropout rates, which followed specific groups of students by grade level to track if they graduated in four years.
This was the second year in a row the state used this more sophisticated way of collecting data, making this the first year it could be compared from 2010 to 2011 to get a clearer picture of whether or not districts are improving.
Here’s how districts in Contra Costa County stacked up against each other, with 2010 graduation rates followed by 2011 rates and the change, then 2010 dropout rates followed by 2011 rates, along with the change. The graduation and dropout rates do not add up to 100 percent because some students had not graduated or dropped out by the end of four years.
District 2010, 2011 (change) 2010, 2011 (change)
Acalanes 95.4, 96.3 (+0.9) 3.3, 1.8 (-1.5)
Antioch 74.0, 73.1 (-0.9) 16.8, 17.2 (+0.4)
John Swett 75.3, 88.2 (+12.9) 16.7, 8.8 (-7.9)
Liberty 83.9, 85.1 (+1.2) 5.5, 5.5 (no change)
Martinez 84.9, 88.6 (+3.7) 8.1, 5.5 (-2.6)
Mt. Diablo 74.8, 81.8 (+7.0) 18.8, 11.4 (-7.4)
Pittsburg 64.3, 66.3 (+2.0) 30.9, 25.5 (-5.4)
San Ramon 96.4, 96.8 (+0.4) 2.2, 1.6 (-0.6)
West Contra Costa 72.6, 74.0 (+1.4) 22.0, 20.5 (-1.5)
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 79.9, 82.2 (+2.3) 13.8, 11.0 (-2.8)
STATE 74.8, 76.3 (+1.5) 16.6, 14.4 (-2.2)
To see complete results, including school data, visit t http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest and select “graduates” on level 2.
Acalanes and San Ramon Valley had the best results, with more than 96 percent of students graduating and less than 2 percent dropping out. The John Swett, Liberty, Martinez and Mt. Diablo districts posted respectable results, with more than 80 percent of students graduating and less than 10 percent dropping out in all but Mt. Diablo.
These results included impressive one-year improvement in the John Swett and Mt. Diablo districts, with John Swett’s graduation rate soaring nearly 13 percentage points and its dropout rate falling about 8 percentage points. Mt. Diablo’s graduation rate jumped about 7 percentage points, while its dropout rate fell by about 7.4 percentage points.
But Rose Lock, assistant superintendent of Student Achievement and School Support in Mt. Diablo, said the district wasn’t completely sure the data was accurate. She said districts have the opportunity to correct their data in July, if there are discrepancies.
The Mt. Diablo school board reduced graduation requirements in 2011, dropping required math courses from three years to two years and the total number of credits from 230 to 200. But Lock said she did not think there was a correlation between the lowered requirements and the higher graduation rate.
Contra Costa County districts with the lowest graduation rates and highest dropout rates were Antioch, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa, with all three faring worse that the state average of 76.3 percent graduating and 14.4 percent dropping out.
Here’s more information about the statewide results, from a California Department of Education press release:
“Graduation rates among California’s public school students are climbing and dropout rates are falling, with the biggest gains being made among English learners and the state’s largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced (Wednesday).
More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.
‘Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools,’ Torlakson said. ‘These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state’s future.’
Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.
Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort—referring to this particular group of students—information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system. The 2009-10 rates were also adjusted as a part of this data release (marked “A” in the tables below) to include only those students who were first-time ninth graders in the 2006-07 school year.
The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. However, there are also significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years.
‘Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,’ Torlakson said. ‘The dropout rate shows there’s still much work to be done, particularly to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority students. We must build on our work with parents and communities in the earliest years to pave the way for kids to succeed in school.
CALPADS has made great strides since an independent oversight consultant was critical of the initial release of the system in 2009. In its latest report, the same independent oversight consultant concluded, ‘The CALPADS project is presently in the healthiest state of its history.’
To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest. Reporters are encouraged to use caution when comparing education rates among individual schools and districts; some, such as county office schools, alternative schools or dropout recovery high schools, serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.”
Education Trust-West, an advocacy group, released a statement that was more harsh in its assessment of the data released, but found a few bright spots throughout the state:
“For the second year in a row, the California Department of Education (CDE) has released accurate and transparent graduation and dropout rate data thanks to the state’s use of CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System. The data once again reveal that California’s schools are graduating Latino, African-American, and low-income students at alarmingly low rates.
The data show that three out of four (76%) of our state’s students are graduating from high school in four years.
Sadly, the news is far worse for the state’s African-American, Latino, and low-income students, who graduate from high school at abysmally low rates—63% and 70%, respectively.
Education outcomes for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners, whose needs and potential are often overlooked, are particularly disturbing when compared with the graduation rates of their more advantaged peers. For example, California’s white students graduate at a rate of 86% and Asian students at a rate of 90%.
‘Even though these rates are improving, at the rate California is going, it will take us 13 years to close the graduation gap between Latino and African-American students and their white peers,’ said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education civil rights organization. ‘Every high school dropout is an individual tragedy. Tens of thousands of dropouts represent a large scale-tragedy for the California economy and our state’s future prosperity. It’s time we stopped talking about this problem and invested in the strategies that top districts and schools are using to fix it.’
In spite of these overall statewide trends, the data reveal districts with better results for Latino and African-American students.
In 2010-11, Castro Valley Unified (Alameda County) graduated 94% of their Latino students, while in Sanger Unified (Fresno County) and West Covina Unified (Los Angeles County), 95% of their Latino students graduated in four years.
In ABC Unified (Los Angeles County), 90% of their African-American students graduated in four years. Corona-Norco Unified (Riverside County) posted similarly high graduation rates for their African-American students (88%), and Clovis Unified (Fresno County) graduated 93% of their African-American students.
The data also reveal high schools throughout California with similar strong results for African-American and Latino students, a few of which were recently highlighted in The Education Trust—West report, Repairing the Pipeline: A Look at the Gaps in California’s High School to College Transition. There are a number of high schools serving high proportions of Latino students (more than 65%) with high graduation rates in 2010-11.
At Calipatria High School in Calipatria Unified School District 91% of Latino students graduated in four years.
Imperial High in Imperial Unified School District graduated 98% of their Latino graduates.
At Southwest High in Central Union High School District, 89% of Latino students graduated in four years.
Our analysis also found high schools serving high proportions of African-American students (more than 15%) with high graduation rates in 2010-11.
Rancho Cucamonga High School and Etiwanda High School, both in Chaffey Joint Union High School District had high African-American graduation rates of 88% and 91% respectively.
Kearny Digital Media and Design School, a Linked Learning model in San Diego Unified, graduated 89% of their low-income students, and 83% of their African-American students.
Arthur Benjamin Health Professions High School, a Linked Learning model in Sacramento City Unified, with an African-American student population of nearly 30%, graduated 92% of their African-American students.
‘These districts and schools reveal that our statewide results are not inevitable. We know that approaches such as Linked Learning that tie college rigor to career relevancy; investments in credit recovery; and strong counseling supports are critical to fixing this crisis. Yet, these are the very supports that many districts have cut over the past several years. Our high school accountability system must include graduation rates, dropout rates, and college and career readiness metrics for low-income students and students of color core. This would incentivize schools and districts to ensure that all of their students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and career.’
About The Education Trust—West
The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.”
Congratulations to the 30 East Bay elementary campuses that were named 2012 California Distinguished Schools!
Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced Thursday that 387 schools throughout California earned that honor for innovative education programs that encourage students to learn and help close the achievement gap.
“The schools we are recognizing today demonstrate the incredible commitment of California’s teachers, administrators, and school employees to provide a world-class education to every student, in spite of the financial hardships facing our state and our schools,” Torlakson said in a news release. “Their dedication is inspiring, and I applaud and admire their passion and persistence.”
Here are the East Bay schools that made the list, by county and district:
Alameda City Unified: Amelia Earhart Elementary, Donald D. Lum Elementary
Here is more information about the annual recognition program, from the news release:
“The 2012 California Distinguished Schools Program focuses on California’s students and their entitlement to an equitable and rigorous education. The program identifies and honors those schools that have demonstrated educational excellence for all students and progress in narrowing the achievement gap.
To be invited to apply for Distinguished School honors, schools must meet a variety of eligibility criteria including designated federal and state accountability measures based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Academic Performance Index requirements.
Once schools are deemed eligible, the CDE (California Department of Education) invites them to apply to be recognized as a California Distinguished School. The application process consists of a written application, which includes a comprehensive description of two of the school’s signature practices, and a county-led site validation review process, which validates the implementation of those signature practices.
Elementary and secondary schools (middle and high schools) are recognized in alternate years. This year focuses on elementary schools.
Schools earning the Distinguished School title agree to share their signature practices with other schools and serve as mentors to other educators who want to replicate their work. An updated searchable database of these Signature Practices will be available later this spring by the California Department of Education.
Schools selected for recognition will be honored as Distinguished Schools at award ceremonies where Torlakson will present each school with a 2012 Distinguished School plaque and flag. The event and awards are funded by donations from many of California’s most prominent corporations and statewide educational organizations.
Parents and other interested members of the community are invited to the free Eighth Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum on Saturday in Concord.
Here’s more information from a news release:
“The public is invited to The Eighth Annual Young Children’s Issues Forum, to be held on Saturday, March 24, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon., at the Willow Pass Community Center, 2748 East Olivera Rd., Concord. This free annual community is event sponsored and organized by the Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development (LPC), and is coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE).
The purpose of the program is to provide a forum for discussion among legislators, local officials, and the community regarding current children’s issues. This year’s event will feature two panel presentations and discussions. Ted Lempert, Executive Director of Children Now will be the guest moderator and will lead discussions of approximately 12 state legislators and local officials who will speak about the current status of young children’s health, education, social and child care services. There will also be time for questions from the audience after each panel. Confirmed presenters include Assembly Members Joan Buchanan, Nancy Skinner and Susan Bonilla; Senators Mark DeSaulnier and Loni Hancock; and County Supervisors Karen Mitchoff and Federal Glover.
Historically, the majority of the event attendees are early childhood educators, preschool teachers, program administrators, community college faculty, and representatives from community agencies. Resources, services, and other information related to child care and education, a benefit to parents, will be available at the event. The LPC hopes to encourage and foster parent participation, as well as participation of all early care and education professionals in the county, including private and state-funded child development centers and family care providers.
For more information about the annual Young Children’s Issues Forum, please contact the Contra Costa Local Planning Council for Child Care and Development Coordinator Ruth Fernández at (925) 942-3413. This is a free event, but attendance registration is required. Please visit the LPC website to register and for more details: www.plan4kids.org/events.html.”
What young children’s issues do you think should be discussed?
To assist school districts that serve low- and moderate-income families, Wells Fargo plans to present $200,000 in education grants to 15 Contra Costa County districts and foundations on Monday.
Bob Ceglio, president of the bank’s “Mt. Diablo market,” plans to present the grants to district and foundation reps from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, 77 Santa Barbara Road in Pleasant Hill.
Brentwood Union School District Foundation: $10,000 (to benefit Brentwood Union School District)
Education Foundation of Orinda: $5,000 (to benefit Orinda Union School District)
John Swett Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit John Swett Unified School District)
Lafayette Arts & Science Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Lafayette School District)
Liberty Union High School District Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Liberty Union High School District)
Martinez Education Foundation: $10,000 (to benefit Martinez Unified School District)
Moraga Education Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Moraga School District)
Mt. Diablo Unified School District: $40,000 (to benefit Mt. Diablo Unified School District)
Oakley Union Elementary School District: $5,000 (to benefit Oakley Union Elementary School District)
Pittsburg Unified School District: $10,000 (to benefit Pittsburg Unified School District)
San Ramon Valley Education Foundation: $30,000 (to benefit San Ramon Valley Unified School District)
SEED Foundation: $5,000 (to benefit Byron Union School District)
Walnut Creek Education Fund: $10,000 (to benefit Acalanes/Walnut Creek School District)
West Contra Costa Education Fund: $35,000 (to benefit West Contra Costa Unified School District)
Here is more information about the grants, from a news release:
“Wells Fargo has a long-standing commitment to local education. In Nov. 2011, Wells Fargo announced that the company is donating $1 million to benefit education throughout the Bay Area. Including the $1 million dollars, Wells Fargo has donated more than $13.3 million to schools and nonprofit organizations for educational purposes in the Bay Area, since 2009.
‘I am glad that Wells Fargo continues to support the local communities where our customers and team members raise their children,’ said Bob Ceglio, president of Wells Fargo’s Mount Diablo market. ‘By funding our local schools, we can help provide more resources for our students to be better prepared for the future.’
The grants presented at this event are designated to benefit select school districts with significant enrollment from students coming from low-to-moderate income families.”
As the Mt. Diablo school district prepares its budget report for December, it expects to take into consideration two possible events that could require cuts — a Clayton Valley High School charter conversion in 2012-13 and state “trigger” cuts due to lower-than-anticipated revenues.
The district has already set aside $330/ADA or $10.7 million in a “State Fiscal Uncertainty” reserve fund for midyear cuts. At the board’s Sept. 27 meeting, CFO Bryan Richards estimated the worst-case $4 billion state budget trigger scenario would be $296/ADA or $9.6 million.
“We are prepared,” he said.
This means that even with the $4 billion trigger, the district would have an extra $1.1 million left over. However, the LAO has projected a much lower trigger of $180 per ADA, which would amount to nearly $5.9 million. With this cut, the district would still have $4.8 million left over in its State Fiscal Uncertainties reserve.
The State Fiscal Uncertainty reserve is part of a $45.5 million ending fund balance that the district had at the end of the 2010-11 year. Richards reported that about $14.7 million of that was set aside for various uses including nearly $6 million in a required reserve for “Economic Uncertainties,” leaving an “undesignated” ending balance of $30.8 million. Richards said this was about $7.6 million more than anticipated.
Yet, district officials say they would need to cut about $1.8 million from other schools across the district if the charter conversion is approved by the county or state boards of education. The district is also pushing the MDEA teachers’ union to agree to seven furlough days this year and next year, including five fewer days of school in both years.
The district has built a savings of about $6 million into its budget for furlough days from all employees, including nearly $4.6 million for teacher furlough days that haven’t yet been negotiated.
Mike Langley, president of the teachers’ union, questions whether the furlough days are necessary at all, given the large ending fund balance. The charter committee, likewise, questions whether the district’s calculations related to costs and expenses for the charter are accurate.
Because of the intense debate surrounding the charter’s financial impact, Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan — along with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier — asked the board on Oct. 25 to seek an independent review of the financial calculations from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). Rajan also suggested that the district convene and independent committee to review the financial data.
That same day (Oct. 25), the district requested a financial review from FCMAT. The independent agency visited the district Nov. 1 and used information available at that time to prepare its report.
However, a lot changed after the FCMAT visit. The next day (Nov. 2), Bill Clark, associate superintendent for business services at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, issued guidance to districts about how to prepare for midyear cuts.
The district asked the charter committee to submit new financial estimates based on this guidance, which the charter submitted on Nov. 4. The board denied the charter petition Nov. 8, based on the charter budget submitted Nov. 4. FCMAT did not review that budget.
Instead, the FCMAT review, based on data obtained Nov. 1, stated that: “Calculations prepared by the district to analyze costs associated with Clayton Valley High School are accurate, reasonable and based on either current year projections or prior year actuals when applicable.”
However, the report went onto state that special education costs had not been adjusted to show the charter’s intention to use the El Dorado County Charter Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) or to show revenues the district could receive from the charter for facilities and oversight.
The report concluded: “FCMAT reviewed the district’s cost impact based on a defined set of assumptions. As these assumptions change, so will the costs either positively or negatively, as these findings are based on a particular point in time. The district and the charter organizers have not completed negotiations regarding some major areas such as facility arrangements and serving special education students. In addition, the charter organizers have resubmitted adjusted financial statements since FCMAT’s fieldwork. The financial impact associated with special education and facilities can be substantial. The district is encouraged to clarify these issues with the charter organizers.
The team provided Mount Diablo Unified School District management with suggestions on potential cost impacts associated with the possible conversion. FCMAT verified the source of the data utilized by the district in its calculations but did not perform an in-depth fiscal review or financial audit of Mount Diablo Unified School District, and accordingly, FCMAT does not express any opinion in this regard.”
To try to get a better understanding of how the district’s ending fund balance could possibly soften the need for cuts, I emailed some questions to Lawrence on Wednesday. I also asked him whether he was following up on the idea of convening an independent committee to look at the financials, as well as on Trustee Lynne Dennler’s idea of exploring issues that led to the charter movement.
On Thursday, Nov. 17, I received the following email response from Lawrence:
Q. “I believe you said you would create some sort of independent committee to look at the financial impact of the charter on the district. Have you done that? What is the status of the analysis?
A: I requested that principals attend a meeting next Monday evening along with two parent leaders from their site. The purpose is to review the District’s current budget situation based on the November 2nd letter from the Contra Cost Office of Education providing financial guidance on the 1st interim report, and the possible approval of the charter application at the county or State level. The meeting is from 5-7 p.m. at the Loma Vista center. Debi Deal from FCMAT is also able to attend the meeting. Please feel free to attend.
Q: Lynne Dennler said she thought the district should have a dialogue with the charter committee about its grievances, to try to remedy them and prevent future charter efforts. The day after the meeting, Gary Eberhart told me that he thought this dialogue should begin immediately. Has any dialogue begun between the charter committee and the district regarding grievances that led to the charter?
A: We did have a meeting last spring to learn of the concerns that the charter petitioners have. The District then began working to address those concerns by, among other things, interviewing Clayton Valley staff members to determine what they felt was going well and what needed to be changed. Based on those interviews, we made leadership changes at the school. Though we appreciated the efforts of individual administrators at Clayton Valley, there was consensus that a new leadership team would help move the school forward. Since her arrival, Ms. Brothers has meet with both parents and staff members to identify concerns and address them. We continue to support Ms. Brothers, like our other principals, to meet the needs at their site. If the principal at any site thinks it would be useful to have me attend a site leadership meeting to listen to concerns, I would be happy to do that.
Q. Gary (Eberhart) also said he thought the district would need to identify $1.8 million in cuts in the 2012-13 budget for the first interim report, in case the charter is approved by the county or the State Board of Education. Is this what you are planning?
A: Bryan is at the CASBO (California Association of School Business Officials) conference so I do not have the most updated numbers. The financial impact and how it was arrived at will be presented at the meeting on Monday.
Q. What is your response to some critics, who say the FCMAT disclaimer at the end of its report shows that the agency did not actually verify the numbers provided by the district. Therefore, some people are still skeptical about the district’s estimates of the financial impact of the charter.
A: This is why we are having the meeting on Monday evening because Ms. Deal and Mr. Richards will be there. Between the two of them, we can answer questions about the FCMAT review as well as how the District developed its numbers.”
RESPONSE FROM ME TO SUPERINTENDENT LAWRENCE:
“Thanks very much for this. Is the public invited to the Monday meeting?”
RESPONSE FROM SUPERINTENDENT LAWRENCE:
“The meeting is set up for principals and two parent reps from each school. Given that is 150 people that will fill the room at Loma Vista.”
It was unclear to me whether this meant the public could attend. I followed up with an email to Lawrence on Friday, asking whether a “robocall” had gone out about the meeting and stating that there seemed to be some confusion in the community about whether or not it was a public meeting.
I also contacted Clayton Mayor David Shuey on Friday, who told me that the charter committee had not been invited. After my call, Shuey sent the following email to Lawrence:
“Subject: FCMAT meeting Monday?
Theresa Harrington called and asked me about a meeting that is apparently being held on Monday that will include a presentation and update from FCMAT on the charter school issue. I have seen no notice of such a meeting (looked on your website just now) and only learned from Ms. Harrington that it is apparently Principals of each school and two parent representatives. I asked our group if anyone had gotten notice of this and am currently unaware of such notice. I also have not seen anything come back from any of my kids schools regarding parent participation. So as you can see I am a little confused on this meeting.
Please kindly provide me the time, location and agenda for this meeting so that those of us interested can attend.
David “Shoe” Shuey
Mayor, City of Clayton”
Lawrence copied me on his response to Shuey below:
The meeting is at the Loma Vista Center from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. We asked each principal to invite two parents because that would be a group of about 150 people. However, as long as there is room in the room we won’t be turning people away.
I also called Rajan to find out if a committee comprised of principals and two parent leaders they chose to invite was the type of “independent” committee he envisioned when he suggested the idea of a charter budget review on Oct. 25.
Rajan said he was aware of the meeting, but wasn’t sure at that moment how the committee was selected. He later followed up with the forwarded email below, which was sent to him, along with representatives for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier and Rep. George Miller:
“From: STEVEN LAWRENCE
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 6:07 PM
To: Kish Rajan; Herbert, Mark; Satinder S. Malhi
Cc: Johnson, Barb
Subject: FW: Budget Meeting e-mail to principals
I wanted to let all of you know that I am following up on the suggestion from Senator DeSaulnier, Assemblywoman Bonilla and Councilman Rajan for a public meeting to review the district budget and loss of funding due to the a conversion charter high school. It would be great if they or their representative could attend the meeting.
From: STEVEN LAWRENCE
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 5:59 PM
To: All MDUSD principals
Subject: Budget Meeting e-mail to principals
In order to publicly answer questions about the District’s budget and our calculations around the loss of funding that will result if the County or State approves the Clayton Valley conversion to a charter school, we will hold a public meeting at the Loma Vista Center next Monday, November 21, 2011 from 5 – 7 p.m. I know this is the first Monday of vacation, and I completely understand people may have travel plans or other commitments that will not allow them to attend the meeting. We are holding the meeting on November 21 because Debi Deal, who conducted the FCMAT review, is in the area and able to attend at that time. Please invite two of your parent leaders to attend the meeting. If there are specific questions that you or your parents would like to have answered at the meeting, please forward your input to Rose or me so we include the information in the discussion. If people are unable to attend this meeting we will have follow-up evening meetings to address budget concerns. Again, I am sorry that this meeting is during vacation, but Ms. Deal lives in Southern California and happened to be working with another district in our area on November 21st.
In his email to me, Rajan said (in part): “This was sent to every principal in the district. This is clearly not a ‘hand picked’ group. And there is no effort to exclude or obscure. It appears very consistent with our request for an open transparent meeting on this matter.”
He also asked me if the charter folks were participating and said he hoped they would “participate honestly and not be dismissive of the critical financial facts.”
In addition, Rajan asked how the charter committee felt about the state “triggered” budget cuts and whether they would be insulated from them.
I responded, letting Rajan know that the charter folks were not invited, but that Lawrence told them late Friday they would not be turned away, after Shuey asked to attend. I also said that Lawrence’s decision to allow principals to select two parent leaders could give some the appearance that the committee was “hand-picked”. In addition, I asked whether he thought the meeting should have been publicly noticed, since some people were questioning how open and transparent it really was.
Here is Rajan’s (excerpted) email response:
“I trust the principals to invite responsible parents who have no agenda other than to help the kids at their schools.
I think the charter folks have every opportunity to live up to their statements that they want to know the facts of the financial impact the charter would have on the rest of the district. And given the larger triggered cuts that are looming, I would hope the charter proponents are sensitive to the impact all parents are bracing for.”
To get a better idea of how midyear cuts may affect the district, I emailed some questions to Lawrence on Thursday and received the following response:
Q: “I know that the district set aside $330/ADA in anticipation of the cuts, or $10.7 million. According to Bryan (Richards)’s most recent budget presentation, the district estimated midyear cuts would cost about $296/ADA or about $9.6 million, which leaves a cushion of about $1.1 million. This doesn’t include the extra $7.6 million in the district’s ending fund balance that wasn’t anticipated. Do you agree with this?
A: Bryan is at the CSBO so I can’t run your assumptions by him to validate your numbers. If you review the November 2 letter form CCCOE CBO Bill Clark that is attached to our website the County is recommending that not only do we assume the triggers will be pulled, but we assume they will be on-going, not one time, and we remove any COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) from our budget for the next two years. Here is the link to the letter http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Documents/012%202011-12%20First%20Interim%20Guidance.pdf
Q: A recent MDEA (Mt. Diablo Education Association) bargaining update says the district is proposing one furlough day for every $42 in per-student funding from the state, which would equal seven furlough days, if the trigger costs the district $296/ADA, as projected. I understand that MDEA wants to propose a counter-offer. Do you agree with this?
A: I can’t speak for MDEA; please contact them.
Q: Another MDEA bargaining update states that the district is asking teachers to agree to ‘Make no plan dates,’ in anticipation of furlough days. It states that teachers don’t want to agree to this unless the furloughs have actually been negotiated.
A: We have received concerns from teachers, high school parents, and principals that they need to know what definitive dates graduation will be held on. They have to reserve dates at the Concord Pavilion and the Concord Center. Parent groups that sponsor grad night need to enter into contracts with vendors. Elementary and middle school teachers don’t want to have to change their plans and lose fieldtrip deposits as they almost did last year when furlough days were agreed to late in the school year. Therefore, the District recommended dates that would not impact holding graduation during the last week of school on the current district calendar. We also want to make sure that furlough days don’t impact AP Testing and STAR testing.”
I also asked Lawrence for quotes the Times might be able to use in a story about midyear cuts.
Q: “Might you be able to tell me in general how you expect the district to cope (will you rely on the reserve you set aside for midyear cuts)?”
A: We set aside a reserve to address one-time, midyear reductions, not ongoing cuts the County is asking us to assume.”
I also asked for a general quote regarding the state budget’s affect on the district.
A: “Children are being minimized and marginalized by the continual reductions to education funding. We are robbing a generation of children of the rich educational experiences that others received in the past. The Legislature and Governor have to stand up and not let the hemorrhaging continue.”
Langley said the district has consistently underestimated its ending fund balance during the past few years, which has prompted the board to make deep cuts to balance its budget. In June, the board cut the hours and benefits of special education assistants — even after Lawrence and Richards said the additional reduction would not be necessary to certify a “positive” budget.
These cuts are hurting students and teachers, Langley said, because the district has been unable to fill many of these positions. He speculated that the district’s inability to fill the positions could be because the district reduced the hours to three per day and eliminated benefits. This was an outcome that many predicted before the board made the cuts.
Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh pushed for the special education cuts, saying they would be necessary if teachers didn’t agree to furlough days. Now, the district has made so many cuts and has such a large ending fund balance that furloughs may not be necessary this year, Langley said in an email.
“The question parents should be asking is: Why is MDUSD proposing to cut out a week of student instruction when they have a $40 million excess reserve?’” he wrote.
In response, I asked Langley if he thought the public should also question whether the district would need to make cuts if the CVHS charter is approved.
“Anytime the district says it has to make cuts, it should be in context of the amount of reserves,” Langley replied. “Although it is important to project the estimates for future demands on reserves, one must remember that the district reserves have been growing during times when their estimates have seriously underestimated the ending balances. This does not bring into question that spending cuts were needed in the past. It does bring into question the severity of the cuts and the areas that were cut. As long as the philosophy of the governing board and top management is focused on pouring resources, time and money, into narrow data-driven goals and starving the human resources that are critical to the education of our children, the public must question every cut and every expenditure. That question must address the basic need: access to a well rounded education.”
Shuey said the charter committee had submitted new financials to the district Nov. 4, which responded to the County Office of Education guidance related to midyear cuts.
“We are as interested as anyone else to find out the complete factual basis and truth of the (charter’s financial)impact on the district,” he said.
In addition, Shuey said he would like to know why each high school gets a different amount of money per student and why some get less than other schools throughout the district. He said he wants the district to explain the methodology it uses to calculate school funding and he wants to know how MDUSD’s methodology compares to other districts.
“There’s a lot of preliminary factual information that I need to get an understanding,” he said. “I’m hoping the meeting on Monday will start that process.”
Are you satisfied with the composition of the committee and the district’s notification to the community about the meeting?
I received the following (excerpted) news release announcing semifinalists in the 2012 National Merit® Scholarship Program:
“…officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (nmsc) announced the names of approximately 16,000 Semifinalists in the 57th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $34 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.
NMSC, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
Scholarships are underwritten by nmsc with its own funds and by approximately 440 business organizations and higher education institutions that share nmsc’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.
Steps in the 2012 Competition
About 1.5 million juniors in some 22,000 high schools entered the 2012 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2010 Preliminary sat/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (psat/nmsqt®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, which represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.
To become a Finalist, a Semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by the high school principal, and earn sat scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test. The semifinalist and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application, which includes the student’s essay and information about the Semifinalist’s participation and leadership in school and community activities.
From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this Finalist group. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies,without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin, or religious preference.
National Merit Scholarships
Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2012.
Every Finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit $2500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 240 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 200 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,800 college-sponsored merit scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.
National Merit Scholarship winners of 2012 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 283,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.”
Here are the Contra Costa County semi-finalists, listed alphabetically by city and high school. More information about the program is at www.nationalmerit.org.
DEER VALLEY H. S.
Lal, Temi N.
Rendradjaja, Pandu B.
DE LA SALLE H. S.
Ryba, Bryan E.
Waterson, Zachary J.
Ross, Cullen L.
MONTE VISTA H. S.
Chiang, Michael J.
Hui, Sandra C.
Li, Andrew Y.
Oh, Jeong Min
SAN RAMON VALLEY H. S.
Hasani, Raveesh R.
Hennessy, Shannon R.
Rogers, Dylan M.
Wolfe, John D.
Wolfert, Katherine E.
ACALANES H. S.
Baer, Annalise E.
Johnson, Ariana B.
Mooney, Sean R.
Hsieh, Elizabeth J.
Little, David T
ALHAMBRA H. S.
830 Spangenberg, Carielle U.
CAMPOLINDO H. S.
Bennett, Colin T.
Compestine, Vinson M.
Evans, Ciaran L.
Geiger, Keith R.
Gelston, Kevin W.
Kathan, Jessica C.
Shweh, Peter Y.
Wong, Colin K.
MIRAMONTE H. S.
Ahmann, Justin T.
Baker, David C.
Blore, Jason M.
Bollag, Sophia M.
Chen, Alexander S.
Fluegge, Robert B.
Hasanain, Syed Ali B.
Kaufhold, Samantha G.
Stanaro, Kathleen M.
Tran, Courtney L.
Wu, Eric G.
Young, Hayley N.
COLLEGE PARK H. S.
Farnitano, Matthew C.
SALESIAN H. S.
CALIFORNIA H. S.
Camenzind, Thomas W.
Chen, Burt J.
Halarnkar, Natasha G.
Luo, Ross S.
Oberhauser-Lim, Natalie A.
Saiki, Robyn M.
Trivedi, Mehul D.
Tsai, Erica Y.
DOUGHERTY VALLEY H. S.
Ho, Frederick W.
Kumar, Meera M.
Lin, Gilbert P.
Lu, David Q.
Sheth, Richa P.
Wang, Eric S.
Zeng, Connie X.
LAS LOMAS H. S.
Cohen, Wesley O.
Ishiguro, Amy S.
Tang, Aaron W.
Warner, Abigail M.
Zhang, Felicia L.
NORTHGATE H. S.
MacCabe, Cameron J.
Wei, David M.
Congratulations to all the finalists, who attend schools in many districts in the county, as well as private schools.
Do you believe your local schools provide the types of educational opportunities necessary to challenge the highest-achieving students?
Many education reformers focus their attention on low-income schools with a high percentage of English language learners and students who are in ethnic minorities.
But, Lance Izumi — an author and senior director for education at the Pacific Research Institute public policy think tank — says suburban campuses that don’t at first appear to fit the profile of low-performing schools can also benefit from education reforms.
During a recent speech to the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association in Pleasant Hill, Izumi highlighted Clayton Valley High School in Concord as an example of such a campus.
“At Clayton Valley, less than two out of 10 students are socio-economically disadvantaged, which means that the large majority of students are not from low-income families, and probably most are middle class,” he said. “Many people would therefore assume that the school would be higher performing. If you look at Clayton Valley test scores, however, one sees some real problems.”
He said 42 percent of 11th-graders failed to score proficient in English last spring.
“It was much worse in math,” Izumi said, “with a combined 68 percent of 11th graders taking the Algebra II and summative math exams failing to score at proficiency.”
Izumi also referred to a Global Report Card at www.globalreportcard.org, which shows how students in districts in the United States compare to students in countries such as Singapore, Canada and Switzerland.
He touted online learning as a good way to reach all types of students — from remedial to advanced, including English language learners and children with autism — saying programs adjust to students’ learning levels.
Some in the audience were receptive to his message, while others were skeptical.
Rene Maher, of Pleasant Hill, said she sent her children to parochial schools because she wasn’t satisfied with local public schools. However, she was encouraged by statistics cited by Izumi about improvement achieved at some schools in California with charters and online programs.
Some West Contra Costa district parents, on the other hand, told me they would have preferred that Izumi focus on improving teaching in the classroom. They questioned whether one purpose of his speech was to sell his books, which he referenced a few times.
Do you believe charter schools and online education offer suitable alternatives to traditional public school programs?
Our Contra Costa Times readers’ forum question this week was: “Do you think California is adequately funding education?”
Unfortunately we were only able to fit six responses into our print edition, which were from West Contra Costa County and Dublin. Here are a few more responses from Central, East and West Contra Costa County readers, which I’m posting below, in case blog readers would like to add to the dialogue:
“Invest in future
California is not adequately funding education. Education is the engine of innovation, opportunity, and raising the tide for all boats. Growing the economy, maintaining public health, reducing crime, and pursuing the American dream all require increased investment in public education.
The motto of the University of California is: ‘Let there be light.’ I was fortunate to be a UC undergraduate at a time when I and everyone I knew there believed that it represented the pursuit of excellence.
I also believe that it is in the interest of all of us for the best and the brightest to go into teaching. No aspiration is worthier than excellence in education, and no segment of society is more important than educators. So educators should be among the most highly paid.
The University of California was a major factor in making California one of the biggest economies in the world. Investing much more in all levels of education in California is the best way to grow our way out of our current economic doldrums. Let’s do it!
President Jimmy Carter did not mince his words in 1980 by asking Americans to live with their means and lost the election to Ronald Reagan.
Reagan went on a massive military spending spree, and we have not recovered from that mindset 30 years later.
Why, when the entire nation is suffering from cutbacks in services and education, are we still spending such enormous treasures on defense and senseless wars?
Our country is bleeding from the wounds of war and military spending — $7 trillion in the last 10 years alone! We can’t afford this anymore.
The Joint Strike Fighter is an example of military spending gone wild. Each plane costs $144 million (maintenance aside) and we’re planning to acquire 2,500 of these.
I say reduce the number of these preposterously expensive war machines by half and fund colleges in the U.S. to the tune of $170 billion over the next 10 years. Now that would be money well spent.
Get rid of babble
California’s funding of education would probably be adequate if we could rid the system of sociological psychobabble indoctrination.
Public education should be based on an objective curriculum using teachers who do not use their position of power as a conduit for their social; agendas.
The nonacademic values that should be taught are responsibility, accountability, patriotism, self-reliance and honest economics, not the crony capitalism that politicians love.
Having spent nine years in California’s public school system and now attending a private high school, I can see the difference that lack of funding creates.
Nine years ago, before California was in a debt crisis and when I was in kindergarten, the public schools in California (specifically my hometown, Brentwood) were absolutely outstanding.
I was able to take advantage of art, music, and computer programs, which were available at my elementary school on a weekly basis and were each taught by a different instructor for all six years that I attended.
Now there is no art or computer teacher and these programs are in the hands of the classroom teacher. While the music program remains intact, it is available only to fourth and fifth graders.
Evidently, there is a substantial difference between public elementary schools now compared to when I was an elementary school student.
Still with these cutbacks, I have had the privilege of being taught by many wonderful people in the past nine years. Though teachers have been subjected to many pay cuts, they have provided quality education to California’s students.
When I went into teaching as a second career, I knew what the real work hours were; my ex-wife was a teacher during the 14 years we were married.
Between 2005 and today, my average class size has increased over 45 percent. While my paid work hours and salary have not changed much, my unpaid hours have dramatically increased. All of this is due to the underfunding of education.
This is not an increase in efficiency, but rather a large decrease in actual education. With larger class sizes, I have less time to individually help students who need it. Classroom management time has increased, and education time has decreased in each period.
Some students might not act up with 27 students in the class but will with 40. We need to reduce class sizes with more teachers.
We, as a society, cannot afford to not spend more on students. Employment in California is dependent on an adequately educated workforce.
Outside of districts such as San Ramon and Acalanes, which can get more funding from parents, public education is generally not creating the next generation workforce. This will cost all of us in the future far more than any tax increase.
No. We have less per pupil spending then the majority of states. Public education is not a form of welfare, as some think.
Privatization is not the answer. Fully funded and supported public institutions create a sense of common purpose and hope for all economic brackets.
Tax rates should be returned to previous levels to pay for social stability. We should live up to our Christian nation hype and be our ‘brothers’ keeper.’
Do you think the state funds education adequately?
According to data released by the state Wednesday, East Bay schools are improving when measured by state Academic Performance Index (API) scores, but many are failing when evaluated by federal No Child Left Behind standards.
Why? Because the state rewards schools that make modest gains, while the federal government is expecting incrementally larger gains each year by students on math and English tests.
According to the No Child Left Behind law, the federal government’s goal is for all students to be proficient in both subjects by 2014. The goal for the state is for schools to keep making moderate progress, even though most educators seem to agree that proficiency for all students in the next three years is unattainable.
Frustrated, some administrators say the federal program appears to be setting them up for failure. Still, most agree the goal of proficiency for all students is laudable and say schools should strive to achieve it.
Here’s how East Bay districts stacked up against each other on their API scores:
EAST BAY DISTRICT 2011 ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE INDEX SCORES
(Scores range from 200-1,000, with target of 800)
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY DISTRICTS
John Swett 742
Mt. Diablo 786
Pittsburg Not available
San Ramon 922
Walnut Creek 905
West Contra Costa 709
ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICTS
Castro Valley 865
New Haven 775
San Leandro 738
San Lorenzo 741
Sunol Glen 939
Detailed school, district and county scores are at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ar/
Although these scores look pretty good overall, 66 percent of Contra Costa County schools and 60 percent of Alameda County schools are in federal Program Improvement for because students in various designated groups failed to made adequate yearly progress two years in a row. Student subgroups include: ethnic minorities, low-income students, English learners and those with disabilities.
Sanctions escalate each year a school fails to improve. In the first year, schools must notify parents of their program improvement status and set aside 5 percent of Title 1 funds for professional development. By year 5, schools must restructure their staffs and the district must offer alternative choices to students, along with supplemental services.
Districts entering program improvement must develop plans to address deficiencies and devote a percentage of Title 1 funds to professional development.
I and several other Times reporters spoke to local district officials about their scores to get a better sense of what they thought they did right and where they think they need to work harder.
Here’s a sampling of what they said:
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY:
ACALANES: Reporter Jonathan Morales told me the Acalanes district can no longer claim to be the highest-scoring high school district in the state. It was edged out this year by the Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union district in Santa Clara County, which received an API of 904, compared to 903 for Acalanes.
Here’s Morales’ story about the Lamorinda district school results: http://www.contracostatimes.com/education/ci_18814154?nclick_check=1.
Reporter Paul Burgarino reports that Antioch Unified saw its overall API score fall by one point to 731. While three elementary schools scored 800 or higher, only one increased its score.
Two schools — Orchard Park and Dozier Libbey Medical High — fell back below the 800 mark.
Though the district made little progress on meeting federal standards, no additional schools were designated for program improvement.
Antioch Superintendent Donald Gill said many teachers in the district were moved around last year because the district removed class-size reduction, which forced them to adjust to teaching new grade levels.
“I believe this year things will start to stabilize,” Gill said.
Schools that had specialized coaching for teachers showed improvement, while the district’s four-year data shows improvement in eight out of 10 subgroup categories, Gill said.
Three quarters of the teachers at Turner Elementary were new to their grade level last year. That school’s API score dropped 24 points to a 745.
Reporter Roman Gohkman reports that in the Brentwood Union School District, nine of 10 schools finished above 800. All three middle schools increased their scores; the largest jump coming at Adams Middle School, which increased its score by 17 points from 854 to 871.
All six elementary schools, however, saw their scores decline. The only school that finished below 800, Marsh Creek Elementary, had a growth target of 5 points. Instead, the school dropped 9 points.
“We had really great gains between 2009 and 2010, but our results this year are a mixed bag,” said Michael Bowen, district director of curriculum and instruction.
Bowen said the scores for the district’s six elementary schools dropped possibly because the district put more emphasis into increasing the scores of its three middle schools.
“We’ll be engaging our principals in diving into the data and addressing areas of need,” he said. “When we see drops we always want to dig deep and see what’s going on.”
All three middle schools, including Edna Hill, which is in the second year of program improvement, met their components in the AYP report, while four of the six elementary schools did not meet target goals on at least one component. Garin Elementary, which is in the second year of program improvement, did not meet the target in English-language arts or math.
“I think the targets are becoming unrealistic,” Bowen said.
Reporter Lisa White reports that Superintendent Rami Muth said a a teacher at Las Juntas Elementary (whom she declined to identify) did not follow the directions when administering the STAR test, so those students’ scores were declared invalid. Since those test results affected more than 5 percent of the student body, the test scores for the entire school weren’t counted, thus it was placed in Program Improvement.
The district hired a contractor to crunch the data, which found that every subgroup did make AYP, according to Muth. This, however, is unofficial and not recognized by the state.
So, technically the school is in Year 1 of Program Improvement and will have to do all the things the feds require. Parents will be notified at Back to School Night that they can apply to have their child transferred to one of the other elementary schools (all of which did make AYP) on a space-available basis.
“From our perspective,” Muth said, “the label — while not a good thing — we’re using it as a tool to grow.”
I spoke with Rose Lock, assistant superintendent for student achievement and school support. I will do a separate blog post looking more closely at the district, but here are a few of her comments:
She noted that many schools made good gains on their API scores, but said she wasn’t surprised by the district’s program improvement status:
“We knew it was coming, because we know that our subgroups are continuing to struggle,” she said. “Other school districts across the state are in a similar situation. If you look at the California API accountability, we are making gains. Unfortunately, it’s the federal accountabliity system that’s challenging. Walnut Creek is in program improvement too. We’re in good company.”
She pointed out that only a few districts met all the components of growth targets for all their schools. These included Moraga and Orinda.
“Even San Ramon didn’t,” she said. “Even Lafayette didn’t. But that doesn’t take away the work that we need to do.”
Lock said that being named a program improvement district requires the district to set aside at least 10 percent of its Title 1 money for district-wide professional development.
“We have been focusing on improvement,” Lock said. “Our department is really focused on really targeted and focused efforts — working with our schools in terms of using data and formative assessments — being more strategic in how we respond to the needs of students.”
She said the district hopes to complete its Master Plan for English learners by March, with the newly appointed Director of English Language Services.
“That’s a highest priority,” she said.
The district is also working on an Equity Plan to help narrow the achievement gap for black and Latino students.
In addition, Superintendent Steven Lawrence issued a News Update to the community about the district’s API and AYP results. However, he omitted the Eagle Peak Montessori Charter School from his list. Its score rose by 27 points to 918 and it met all federal targets.
Reporter Rick Radin reports that all Pittsburg elementary and middle school scores rose between 4 and 52 points, with one school — Los Medanos Elementary — scoring over 800.
Superintendent Linda Rondeau (a former MDUSD administrator) credited “a tight focus on teaching strategies and expository writing” in the schools for the improvement.
Pittsburg High and Riverside continuation school scores will not be available until October or November because of data errors by the testing service, Rondeau said.
Total test score increases at the Pittsburg elementary schools far outstripped those at the middle schools.
The elementary school curriculum is more aligned with state testing standards than the middle school curriculum, said Abe Doctolero, assistant superintendent for educational services.
“It becomes more difficult to get everyone aligned on the same instructional page in the middle schools because the teachers teach different subjects,” Doctolero said.
SAN RAMON VALLEY:
Reporter Eric Louie reports that the San Ramon Valley school district as a whole did not meet the standards because socioeconomically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities did not make the mark in math. Yet, Pine Valley Middle School in San Ramon was the only school that failed to meet its adequate yearly progress goal for math because too few Latino students achieved proficiency.
All other district schools did meet proficiency goals. However, like the majority of schools in the large district, Pine Valley is not a Title 1 school, so it will not be subject to No Child Left Behind sanctions.
I spoke to Superintendent Patricia Wool, who said the district did not meet its adequate yearly progress goals for English learners and Hispanic or Latino students.
“Overall as a district, we’re doing really well,” she said. “In fact our API is 905.”
Every year, the district prepares an Achievement Gap report, she said. The district will come up with a plan to address lagging students.
“We’ve got some work to do,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with varying ways to adjust the curriculum.”
Murwood and Buena Vista elementary are Title 1 schools. Murwood was newly identified as a Program Improvement school this year for failing to make adequate yearly progress in both English and math. Buena Vista failed to meet its math goals, but hasn’t been placed in program improvement yet. If it doesn’t improve, it could be headed for program improvement next year.
“We’re certainly committed to each and every subgroup,” she said. “We don’t rest on our laurels.”
I mentioned that the Cupertinto schools superintendent strongly objected to his district being singled out for “Program Improvement” this year, since that district also has high test scores overall. But Wool said she didn’t have a similar reaction.
“Am I up in arms? No,” she said, “because it’s going to take all of us in this district working together to figure out how to support all the subgroups.”
WEST CONTRA COSTA COUNTY:
Reporter Shelly Meron reports that the West Contra Costa school district showed modest improvement overall this year, increasing its API score by 13 points to 709. School officials there say there were many successes this year, with several schools showing significant improvement since 2010.
“We’re in a better place than we were last year and we continue to see that movement in the right direction, and continue to focus on accelerating that growth,” said Nia Rashidchi, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services. “Our teachers and administrators are working really hard. I think our scores are showing that effort.”
Title I schools in the district performed all over the map. Several campuses – including Stege Elementary, Dejean Middle School and Kennedy High, all in Richmond – dropped significantly. Others showed big improvements, including Bayview Elementary in San Pablo and Highland, Lincoln, Nystrom and Peres elementaries in Richmond.
Rashidchi said local schools have been tackling the job with close collaboration among staff, regular and in-depth assessment of student performance, pinpointing where strengths and weaknesses are, and figuring out how to replicate practices that are working and to weed out what’s not.
“Everyone’s working on that,” Rashidchi said. “Some of our schools have gotten more proficient at it.”
Rashidchi praised 60-point API growth at Lincoln Elementary to 719. The school met growth targets school-wide and for all subgroups.
Kennedy High, on the other hand, is still struggling. Its API score dropped by 33 points to 518 this year, and the school failed to meet its growth targets. It is also in year 5 of program improvement.
“There’s a sense of urgency with the (Kennedy) staff that we know we need to meet the needs of all our kids. We’ll be sitting down and talking with the staff, working with them and providing support to make sure we see the gains we see at other schools,” Rashidchi said. “We will have folks who are perhaps having more success talk with each other about what strategies they’re using. There is lots of energy and effort being put into Kennedy.”
Reporter Eric Louie reported that Frederiksen Elementary in Dublin entered its first year of program improvement, with the school as a whole and multiple subgroups not meeting proficiency targets. Latino and English learners missed their goals in both math and English. White, low-income students missed the English target.
Elsewhere in the district, Dublin Elementary and Wells Middle school — which meet all the standards in 2010 — did not in 2011. If they miss their targets next year, they could fall into program improvement.
Superintendent Stephen Hanke noted the district’s Academic Performance Index has been rising — from 878 last year to 885 in 2011 — far past the target of 800. He said while the district strives to have all students proficient and above, meeting the goal by 2014 as required by federal guidelines isn’t realistic.
Reporter Robert Jordan spoke to Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi about that district’s difficulties keeping campuses out of program improvement. Pleasanton Middle School entered program improvement last year, followed this year by Valley View Elementary.
“We have to do something,” Ahmadi said. “We have been waiting for NCLB reauthorization for a couple of years. We know we have to take a look at a different set of criteria to look at proficiency — a growth model rather than 100 percent by a specific date.”
If the law doesn’t change soon, he predicted even more dire consequences in the next three years.
“By 2013-14, 100 percent of every sub group has to be proficient,” he said. “I would say that most districts in California will be in program improvement.”
What do you think local school districts that are struggling should do to help boost student achievement?