Schools in districts in Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties recently got the good news and the bad news: more than a dozen sites have been placed on a preliminary list by the State of California as some of the state’s persistently low-achieving schools.
The California Department of Education identified 188 public schools it put on the preliminary list; once the list is finalized by the state board of education, those still on the list will be forced to adopt one of four reform models. Waukena is the closest school to Corcoran that was put on the preliminary list.
Waukena is joined several Tulare County schools on the low performance list. Others included Jefferson Elementary in Lindsay, George L. Snowden Elementary in Farmersville, Highland Elementary in Visalia and Alta Vista Elementary in the Alta Vista Elementary School District.
In Kings County, two schools were on the list: Avenal Elementary in the Reef-Sunset District; and Lakeside Elementary in the Lakeside district. Two Fresno county schools were listed.
The education department was required to provide the list under state and federal laws as part of the federal stimulus package and the School Improvement Grant program. Academic performance and progress, school graduation rates were among the items used to generate the list.
Corcoran schools fared better than their neighbors in Waukena, the Lakeside District and Avenal.
“If we look at our growth over the past four to five years, we see significant progress through a number of indicators,” said Superintendent Rich Merlo.
Those indicators include the District Academic Performance Index (API) score, which has gone from the low 600s to the current 724. The district is now aiming for 800, Merlo said.
Also scrutinized are the second grade student language arts proficiencies on the state standards test; those have shot up from less than 10 percent proficiency to over 60 percent in the last few years.
“This is a good indictor of the growth we are seeing at the lower grades in building reading and English language development skills,” Merlo noted.
Gleaning information from local testing and state standards assessment, said Steve Brown, director of educational services at Corcoran Unified, shows the district where more work is needed and where the district is succeeding.
“These indicators continue to validate our efforts district-wide to improve student achievement, and show we are on the right track,” he stated.
Brown added that the challenges come in two areas: responding to the ever-changing educational climate—including the state’s current financial crisis—that continually move the bar and redefine progress and expectations; and effectively adjusting to the infrequent “speed bumps” or plateaus that occur when one school or a specific area shows no additional progress.
“So far, we have been able to respond to those occurrences and get back on track,” said Brown.
Schools on the list can apply for federal school improvement grants ranging from $500,000-$2 million to implement one of the four intervention models. Schools that choose not to take the money have a longer period of time to adopt one of the measures.