By Patric Hedlund
This is a time of transition for the largest school district in the Mountain Communities, but the El Tejon Unified School District (ETUSD) is not alone.
Most of the nation is going through major educational changes. California is among the 45 states that have come together to develop and adopt a new set of standards for public education. State governors—Republicans and Democrats together—led the effort to create standards and testing methods designed to prepare students across the country to become more competitive in a global economy.
Teaching methods will focus more on analysis of data and working together in teams to solve problems, less on memorizing, educators say.
“I think it is a good thing that teaching methods grow and change,” said Frazier Mountain High School English Teacher Yvette Heasley, who has been teaching for 22 years. She has been at FMHS for 11 of those years, she said.
Testing methods to evaluate student progress are evolving as well. No longer will a “teach to the test” culture rule the classroom, say advocates of Common Core Standards. New kinds of pilot tests have been in development for two years. They are being fine-tuned for wide use in 2015.
ETUSD has a new team of administrators to tackle the challenges ahead. The district itself has a new superintendent, Rodney Wallace. The elementary and middle school each have new principals. The high school principal is just halfway into her second year. Their first task is to take a clear-eyed look at the data collected by the last round of traditional standardized tests. Each of the new principals delivered a report to the ETUSD Board of Trustees on February 6. They spoke of the data candidly, reporting unvarnished facts, and then provided a plan for improvement.
We will start with the plain facts.
None of the schools met their growth targets for improvement in the 2012-2013 testing cycle.
The Academic Performance Index (API) scores are published by the California Department of Education. The target for the state’s schools is 800 points, on a scale of 200 to 1,000.
•Frazier Park School is an elementary school that now serves kindergarten through fourth grades. Its new principal is Keri St. Jeor this year. At the time of the 2012-2013 testing, fifth and sixth graders were also on the Frazier Park School campus. The schoolwide API last year was 724. The year before the API was 758. That was a drop of -34 points.
•El Tejon School now serves fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Rosalie Jimenez is its new principal this year. In 2012-2013 El Tejon served only seventh and eighth grade students. The API score for that year was 665. In the previous year it was 763. That was a tumble of -98 points.
•Frazier Mountain High School serves ninth through twelfth grades. Sara Haflich is in her second year as the high school principal. The FMHS API for 2012-2013 was 716. The previous year it was 733, a drop of -17 points.
Haflich pointed out however, that over a four year period, the trend has been positive. Compared with the 2009-2010 API—two principals ago—“we have made substantial gains,” Haflich said. The API is up 32 points from then.
At the February ETUSD board meeting, each principal gave eager presentations about their school’s plan to improve student skills this year.
To be continued
This is part of the February 21, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.