http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2011/10/14/district-looks-back-and-ahead-at-goals


Pleasanton Weekly

News - October 14, 2011

District looks back and ahead at goals

Commits to greater work with 'underserved' students

by Glenn Wohltmann

Although student achievement has been rising in nearly all areas of math and English, the Pleasanton school district Tuesday night recommitted itself to higher numbers across the board.

English scores rose for every subgroup but Hispanic students from 2009-10 to 2010-11 while math scores rose for all but white students and students with disabilities. Most of the gains and losses were slight, although socio-economically disadvantaged students saw nearly a three-point gain, and scores for students with disabilities rose nearly two points in English.

Math scores dropped more than a percent for white students and less than a point in disabled students' scores, but rose nearly six points for socio-economically students and more than four points for English learners.

This year district goals for student achievement are more concrete than last year's, which called for an increase in scores. Now the district plans to use, among other things, "data-driven decision making," monitoring progress and fostering better relationships with parents.

The district's goal is to increase its graduation rate from 97.65% to 98.5%, to increase the number of African American and Hispanic students who pass the California High School Exit Exam the first time by 5%, and increase the number of students scoring proficient on the exam by 5%.

Among the tools it plans to use is a new online assessment and reporting system, which was recently made available to teachers and administrators. It helps collect, report and analyze data on each student to track his or her performance, and can help an administrator decide if a teacher needs additional professional development or support.

The district is also committing to hold English as a Second Language courses at schools, and is forming special committees at schools to address treating students equally.

Regarding safe schools, the district's commitment to decreasing the number of expulsions, suspensions and its truancy rate has paid off, with a drop from 31 expulsions in the 2009-10 school year to 18 last year. Suspensions have also dropped from 627 to 583 and truancy has gone down from about 26.9% to about 22%.

Among the district goals are to opt for the least punitive measure whenever possible and to look at suspension and expulsion reports by ethnicity.

It's also pledging information and prevention training on cyber bullying, drug and alcohol use for middle and high school students, and on stress, anxiety and suicide. The first forum, focusing on drug and alcohol use and prevention for high schoolers, is set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Firehouse Arts Center.

The district is also committing to working more closely with the families of underserved students though a pilot mentoring program at middle schools.

"The end goal is to get parents more involved," Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services, told the board.

The district is also pledging to communicate more effectively with the entire community, with particular focus on core values, education programs, and finances, which have recently drawn fire from some in the community.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said that could mean asking board members to speak to community groups like the city's Rotarians.

Another aspect of communication is the so-called digital divide; the district wants to find out which students don't have access to computers at home, and is pledging to increase communication in other languages and to create a liaison/advocate for parents who don't speak English.

In terms of its budget, the district is committing itself to shift resources to help underserved students while maintaining high standards for all.

"We will continue to work in partnership with bargaining units to seeks solutions to the budget crisis that we face," said Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services.

Cazares said she left budgetary goals broad to take advantage of whatever opportunities arise to draw more revenue or cut spending.

Goals aside, she said the district is awaiting two state reports that will determine whether triggers will be pulled that force mid-year budget cuts. Preliminary information on revenues is expected next month, with a final report expected in December, when the district might have to cut its budget.

That could include more furlough days and possible layoffs of some of the 30 teachers who went from temporary to permanent status; these teachers were lauded by the school board at the meeting.

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