NSD turns attention to English Learners following Dashboard release

FILE PHOTO: Old Orchard elementary School Principal Ken Hintz, right, welcomes students, parents and dignitaries as they tour the new science lab at the school after the official ceremony for the opening of two new permanent modular buildings at Old Orchard Elementary School in Newhall on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. Dan Watson/The Signal

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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 Newhall School District said it is already implementing measures to improve the performance of its English Learners, who were reported in the yellow this fall.

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

“I think it’s an attempt to tell the consumers, the parents, and give them a more comprehensive picture of how the school and district is performing,” Newhall School District Superintendent Paul Cordeiro said.

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.

Theses scores replaced the state’s Academic Performance Index measure that gave districts a single score based on student test scores.  Now, scores are based on overall performance as well as change over time.

“The Academic Performance Index, the API, was one metric based exclusively on test scores.  It didn’t give any ratings or didn’t account for different subgroups of students, especially those who may be at the bottom level of the performance,” Cordeiro said.  “This is an attempt to be more transparent on how these student groups are performing over different metrics.”

The Newhall School District fall 2017 Dashboard.

State Indicators

In the Newhall School district, more than a quarter—or 27.5 percent—of its 6,706 students are English Learners, making it the district with the most English Learner students.

In addition, 39.3 percent of the district’s students are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 0.3 percent are foster youth.

This fall, the district had an overall performance in the green, the second highest level.

“We are green this year which is interesting because our math scores are through the roof,” Cordeiro said.  “In ELA we were highest in the SCV again for all grades… But in three of those grades we notched down a little bit and that’s only to some changes in those instructional changes we believe.”

In its state indicators, the district performed in the green for math test scores and English Language Arts test scores, and in the yellow for suspension rates and in English Learner progress.

However, the district did increase its English Learner progress toward English proficiency to 73.8 percent this year, up from 72.7 percent in 2016.

“Kids come into our system not speaking English and we have precious 5 to 6 years to get them proficient. We were rated yellow and we have the highest percentage of English Language Learners in the valley,” Cordeiro said.  Newhall’s philosophy is English Language Learners and everything we’re doing around our systems is to accelerate the progress of our English Language Learners.”

These strategies include a new programs, restructured schedules, new monitoring systems, additional “student talk” in the classroom and additional professional development at school sites.

“We have a new English Learner program called Benchmark Advance,” Cordeiro said.  “It has a very prescriptive program for English Learners that fits to their level of proficiency and is completely integrated into the classroom content itself.”

Cordeiro said the district also restricted site schedules to give offer students designated English Language Development (ELD) time to students and implemented a web-based monitoring system that determines what students need to become proficient in English and become reclassified.

“We have a big obsession to get them up to the next level achievement,” Cordeiro said.  “I don’t like the idea of destiny.  Language is not destiny any more than poverty is.  Wherever you are, we are going to move you up and we are going to do that through really good instruction.”

Local Indicators

The Newhall District met all four local indicator measures that were added to the Dashboard this fall.  This year, the district evaluated these categories using hard data and metrics, like climate survey responses and parent volunteer hours.

To measure its Local Climate Survey, the district evaluated responses from students of all grade levels on the California Healthy Kids Survey.

“We don’t play shell games with data even though it’s our own,” Cordeiro said.  “I love the idea that there’s a student voice in here that’s bonafide.”

In evaluating its Parent Engagement, the district utilized metrics like cumulative volunteer hours, cumulative attendance at site-based activities and events, overall participation in fall conferences and fundraising at school sites.

“They’re hard numbers which I commend us for and they are direct response for parent engagement,” Cordeiro said.

To help parents understand the Dashboard, the Newhall District also created original videos about the Dashboard and its impact on the district and its students.

“We’ll be spending more time with the parents talking about this and its connection to the Local Control Accountability Plan,” Cordeiro said.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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