PUSD fails to meet 'No Child Left Behind' standards | October 26, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

News - October 26, 2012

PUSD fails to meet 'No Child Left Behind' standards

District posts big gains in test scores, still placed into federal program improvement status

by Glenn Wohltmann

Despite increasing its Academic Performance Index score by nine points, from 906 to 915 over the last year, and better test scores for nearly every minority group, the Pleasanton school district has joined a lengthy list of schools that don't meet federal standards.

Pleasanton school board members learned Tuesday night that the district has been placed into program improvement status because math scores haven't improved enough to meet federal standards known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

"We knew that we were going to have to focus on mathematics, so that's what we're doing," said Odie Douglas, assistant superintendent of Educational Services.

The district is above the 90% graduation rate required under federal standards with graduation rates of 97.78% at Amador Valley High, 97.61% at Foothill High and 95.65% at Village. But the district fell short in graduation rates for students with disabilities. Pleasanton had an AYP target graduation rate of 85.98% for students with disabilities in 2012, but only hit 79.26 %.

"We made 33 out of 36 criteria for AYP," said Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi, who said math scores and graduation rates for special education students were the problem areas. "We made growth, a lot of growth, but we didn't make the targeted rate."

Program improvement status means the district must implement specific federal and state requirements, which can vary from district to district and from school to school.

The district did see big jumps in scores of nearly every subgroup, however. API scores climbed by 113 points for socio-economically disadvantaged students at Donlon Elementary, for example. Socio-economically disadvantaged students posted gains at every elementary school.

Scores for English language learners climbed at nearly every school, with Valley View Elementary's score going up 50 points. Valley View is one of two schools in the district that was put on the federal program improvement list last year. Pleasanton Middle School, the district's other program improvement school, saw its API score jump 97 points.

Students with disabilities also saw big gains, with jumps of 40 points or more at Lydiksen Elementary, Pleasanton Middle, Amador Valley and Village, although Village, as a small school, generally doesn't have enough students taking tests to be statistically significant in testing.

Among the other high-performing schools that don't meet No Child Left Behind guidelines are districts in the San Ramon Valley, in Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Fremont and Livermore. More schools are expected to join the list as requirements to meet the federal AYP standards continue to rise.

Those standards are going up every year, until No Child Left Behind is fully implemented in the 2013-14 school year, when all students must be "proficient or advanced" in every test. It takes two years of not meeting federal standards for a school or district to be placed on program improvement and two years to get out of it.

Despite the stigma of being placed into program improvement and a recent backlash against it, Ahmadi said No Child Left Behind is a good thing because it forced schools to look at how to teach students that once fell through the cracks.

"When you have the right program, every one of our students has proven they can do this. They can learn if you have the resources, if you have the programs," she said. "I look at program improvement as an opportunity to serve our kids."

The district has been so successful in increasing scores that some board members joked about inviting Tom Torlakson, the state's superintendent of public instruction, to visit and see how it can be done.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Oct 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I don't respond to articles, or blogs or such normally. But this article begs for a response. Especially when " some board members joked about inviting Tom Torlakson, the state's superintendent of public instruction, to visit and see how it can be done."

PUSD being placed on Program Improvement status is a wake up call for this community and this district. As a parent with children in this district who learn differently, teaching to tests is a ridiculous waste of time and resources. Personally we have children who score in the "advanced" category in LA consistently, but they struggle with reading comprehension, vocabulary and spelling. Why? Two reasons. First, schools spend a good deal of time preparing for the STAR test annually. If you practice enough, you will score high, but scoring high DOES NOT mean you are functioning high. Most parents are very aware of this. Most parents disagree with the amount of classroom instruction time allotted to STAR testing preparation. Parents see clearly, yet somehow the district supervisors and board of education members who are supposed to be in the know and competent to determine policy and cuts, are blinded by the STAR scores.

What PUSD needs to ask itself is: Why do we have subgroups that struggle in reading, writing and math? What is it about today's child, today's lifestyles, that make classroom learning such a challenge for many? How can education be overhauled, reinvented and done differently? As a community if all we want are higher test scores, then let's agree to spend even more educational days preparing for the tests. If we as a community want to give our children the gift of reading, writing and problem solving and a love of learning, it is time to think outside the box. Budget cuts are NOT the reason many kids are falling in the cracks. Teacher union power and keeping poor teachers, that we all know are poor, over newer, eager, hungry young teachers is sinful. All kids can learn, some faster, some slower, but all can learn. Make learning fun and interesting, make learning real and tangible and watch the lightbulbs turn on! Too many kids are having to be privately tutored at parental expense, or privately placed in this district.

Let's take a survey: Do any of your children receive tutoring (Huntington, Sylvan, parental, mentor, or other form?) Do any of your children NEED tutoring, but you cannot afford it? What does needing tutoring do to your child's self-esteem? What would NOT tutoring your child to keep up do to his/her self-esteem?

Great schools teach all. Good schools teach some. PUSD needs to quit patting itself on the back and dig in, the gig is up. So what if PUSD is #1 in the state? CA is still 47th in the nation! So what are we patting ourselves on the back for? Being the best of the worst.

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm

PUSD is doing great. The federal standards are ridiculous to anyone paying attention. We would have been fine if we joined race for the top, but the unions didn't let us. Our children are being educated. Probably one student didn't pass the test as well as the others. That happens, people move in and out of the district etc.

Overall well done PUSD - horrible times and you somehow did better than last year. Cudos!

Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

While tests scores aren't everything, to me they are the most important thing. I'm talking about SAT, ACT, and AP exam scores and the like (not so much STAR tests, but they are better than nothing). You don't get in to Cal Tech with low test scores, no matter how you learn. That said, I agree that we should make learning fun and interesting, and much could be done in that area.

Posted by PUSD schools are mediocre at best, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Concerned parent raises very valid points.

Many parents spend several hours a week tutoring their children themselves or sending youngsters to the two dozen tutoring centers in this city.

40 years ago, people that were teachers knew their subject matter well. Chemistry teachers had majors in chemistry. Math teachers had majors in math. History teachers had majors in history. Then education majors came into fashion where separate colleges were formed for Education at the university level. The actual content courses were very watered down and the focus became on theories of learning and how to teach rather than what to teach.

Also at the university level, the entrance requirements for entering an Education College morphed to be very basic compared to the stringent requirements for entering a college focused on Liberal Arts or Engineering. Teachers and administrators coming out of these Education Colleges just don't have the skill level of people that you would see coming out of Engineering Colleges.

Also, 40 years ago, about the only occupation open for women were to become a teacher or a nurse (women make up a high percentage of teachers). Very smart and talented women entered the teaching and nursing profession.

Now, with all the opportunities available to women, these very smart and talented women who 40 years ago would have become a teacher, now become a Doctor, Engineer, Chemist or Physicist or some other profession.

Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2012 at 12:14 am

To "PUSD schools are mediocre at best",

Compared to what? Dublin Schools or San Ramon schools? Private schools like Valley Christian?

I can't say that the high school I went to 35 years ago was any better. I had a physics teacher who barely knew physics. Chemistry was not taught by a Chemistry major. Were you in Pleasanton 40 years ago? What are you basing your comparison on? Were the Pleasanton schools really that good back then?

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm

"Many parents spend several hours a week tutoring their children themselves or sending youngsters to the two dozen tutoring centers in this city."

You mean they have to spend a whole "several hours" helping their children every week? That is unacceptable. They shouldn't ever have to talk to their kids let alone about school.

How many of the Pleasanton chemistry teachers do not have a chemistry major? There is one the has a doctorate in chemistry.

My guess is that you don't even know, but feel like you should jsut spew forth information and tell everyone how much better the world was 40 years ago.

The problem is that the schools HAVEN'T changed from 40 years ago because of too many people like you who say stuff like "well, I turned out just fine from my school, so we should keep it like it was"