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Castaic District focuses on areas of improvement following Dashboard release

FILE PHOTO: Castaic Elementary students react to photos of art in a slideshow presented by artist-in-residence Suzi Kades on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Kades will spend one week at the school completing a mural for the school. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series looking at how Santa Clarita Valley school districts performed on the fall 2017 release of the California School Dashboard.

Following the release of the fall 2017 California School Dashboard, the Castaic Union School District identified its areas of improvements among student subgroups, English Learners and math test scores.

Released last Thursday, the Dashboard gives districts and schools an “online report card” of their performance while shining a light on inequities in student performance.

“The benefits that I like about it is it does look at your districts and your school sites as a whole, it’s encompassing more than just test scores,” said Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Castaic District.  “When before when we were being held accountable it was mainly only test scores and there was really so much more.”

Using both state and local indicators, the Dashboard uses a color-coded system of graphics to give educational agencies a score ranging from blue—the best—to green, yellow, orange and red—the worst.

These scores are based on overall performance as well as change over time to encourage continual improvement among schools.

“It’s adding to a bigger picture of what our schools do and what our school districts do.  It’s bringing to light our students who struggle academically and making sure that we’re looking at all kids,” Maxon said.  “It’s helping us hone in on fine tune so students aren’t falling through the cracks.”

The Castaic Union School District fall 2017 Dashboard.

State Indicators

The Castaic District, with an enrollment of 2,234, serves students from transitional kindergarten to eighth grade.   Of these students 27.9 percent are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 12.1 percent are English Learners and 0.4 percent are foster youth.

Overall, the district was in the green, the second highest indicator level, for its student performance across all state and local indicators.

“That means that we’re on the right track so we’ll share with our parent groups… Green is where we’d like to be in all areas,” Maxon said.  “When you click on subgroups we have some subgroups that aren’t in the green so we can share with parents these are areas we need to work on.”

Although some student subgroups were in the yellow or orange on indicators, none were in the red, the lowest level.

In its state indicators, the district performed in the green for suspension rates and English Language Arts test scores and in the yellow for math test scores and English Learner progress, which are areas the district is focusing on this school year.

“It’s interesting, the timing of the Dashboard when it comes out because our schools already knew,” Maxon said.  “For math scores, some stayed the same or took a dip, but they have known that since August and they’ve been working on that.”

To work on this area, Maxon said the district has implemented a system called i-Ready that develops a diagnostic program for each student and gives them direct instruction support for academic areas where they need extra help.

To support its English Learners, whose progress toward English proficiency was at 68.8 percent in 2017, the Castaic District adopted a new Language Arts Series that relates to all students’ English Language Development (ELD) standards.

“We are continuing to provide professional development on how to support the new ELD standards,” Maxon said.  “We adopted a new language arts series that embedded in their daily lessons… Now it’s related to their classroom instruction and teachers can support kids and then they’re not feeling singled out.”

Each school site also plans to look at the results of their individual Dashboards with their staffs and parent groups to review the results in a transparent setting, according to Maxon.

Local Indicators

The release of the fall Dashboard also included the addition of four local indicators.  According to the results, the Castaic District met all of these indicators.

“It was really positive.  It really brought to light how well the Dashboard data that we collect mirrors the data that we need to connect to meet the state priorities in our LCAP,” Maxon said.  “For us what was really nice is we were able to present that data and some we had already presented to the board that year… There weren’t any surprises on our local data because we had already been collecting it.”

Areas of success for the district included its Parent Engagement indicator and its Local Climate Survey where both parents and students shared their positive outlooks and experiences with the district.

“Are there areas to continue to work on? Absolutely, that’s what I like about it, it really puts everything in front of you,” Maxon said.  “Overall, the local indicator completion was helpful for us and it also reaffirmed this is where we’re at, there are no surprises and we’ve written it in this LCAP.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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