Schools expect better

Debbie Pfeiffer Trunnell, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/01/2010 09:50:10 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – School officials believe plans they have in place for the months ahead, from more community involvement to allowing teachers to think outside the box, will turn around 11 struggling schools.

Some of the changes will go into effect as soon as Tuesday, the first day of the school year for many San Bernardino City Unified School District campuses.

“I absolutely do believe that we will continue to move forward,” said Superintendent Arturo Delgado. “The improvement already began last year with a boost in test scores.”

The schools were required to put interventions in place after landing on a list of lowest achieving in the state in March.

To put together the list, which includes 188 schools statewide, the California Department of Education primarily looked at the percentage of students who showed proficiency in English and math.

Schools were also evaluated on their progress on the Academic Performance Index, or API, the state’s system of standardized tests.

To get them back on track and in line for School Improvement Grant funding, the school board ultimately decided on two reforms, transformation and turnaround.

Transformation, which calls for replacing the principal and rewarding teachers who improve student achievement, will be used at Davidson and Rio Vista elementary schools and Arroyo Valley, Pacific and San Gorgonio high schools.

The turnaround model will be used at Barton, Marshall, Hunt and Wilson elementary schools and Serrano and Shandin Hills middle schools.

It also calls for replacing the principal and rewarding effective teachers.

The school board also has decided to go with these reforms, as opposed to making some schools charters, because they felt it gave them a better shot at getting grant money.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on approval of the district submissions for funding today.

But efforts still will begin without the money, said Delgado.

For example Pacific High, which has had API placements below 600 in recent years, will add four additional teachers to serve as a support team to students who are falling behind in math and English.

There will also be additional small learning communities which will focus on students’ career paths.

New Pacific Principal Tex Acosta is confident students will meet with greater success in the year ahead.

“We will have more of an academic focus and improve test scores,” he said. “That’s just the way we will be doing business.”

At Davidson, where test scores dropped 17 points from 2008 to 2009, there will be a focus from day one on individualized student learning plans and science, art, music and computer technology projects.

Community involvement in the form of site co-ops, comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and outside experts, are also expected to make a difference.

County board of education member Gil Navarro believes that with community involvement and the attention the schools have received, there will be an honest effort to ensure the interventions are successful.

But the school district will need to share publicly how that effort is progressing.

“There is somewhat of a confidence issue now in the community,” he said. “But once we get that corrected, we will give the district the benefit of the doubt.”

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