Newhall, Sulphur Springs, Hart district named ‘Positive Outliers’ by statewide study

The interior of one of the 21 new classrooms made from steel shipping containers at Sierra Vista Junior high School in Canyon Country on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Three school districts within the Santa Clarita Valley have been recognized by a statewide study for the achievements of African American and Hispanic students.

The William S. Hart Union High School District, the Sulphur Springs Union School District and the Newhall School District were each named by the Learning Policy Institute as a “California Positive Outlier.”

“This analysis identifies these positive outlier districts — those in which students of color, as well as white students, consistently achieve at higher levels than students from similar racial/ethnic backgrounds and from families of similar income and education levels in most other districts,” read the research brief published in May of this year. “Despite wide achievement gaps across California between students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, some school districts have excelled at supporting the learning of all their students.”

The report looked at average African American/Hispanic and white achievement by district averaged across subjects, grades and years. The study found that a major predictor for these districts’ performances was qualifications of the districts’ teachers, as measured by their certification and experience.

“The proportion of underprepared teachers …  has a significant negative effect on achievement for all students, while teaching experience has a positive effect especially for students of color,” the report said.

All three districts were named as positive outlier districts for Hispanic students, with the Newhall School District being named the No. 1 district in the entire state for Hispanic students. NSD Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said it’s the district’s goal to prepare every student for entry into the Hart District set up for success.

“Every Friday teachers collaborate and review data to determine which students need additional time and support during ‘WIN’ (What I Need) time and which students need enrichment,” said Pelzel. “These cycles of intervention and enrichment for math and English language arts occur two to four times a week for 30 to 40 minutes. The Newhall School District is determined to eliminate the achievement gap.”

The Hart District was also recognized as a positive outlier for African American students, the only district to receive that recognition in all of Santa Clarita. Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht said the teachers in her district earned the recognition and it validates their district’s Peer Assistance and Review program (PAR), which helps equip teachers to meet the needs of a diverse student population in Santa Clarita.

“Nevertheless, this study does highlight that an achievement gap persists. It’s our responsibility to keep working to ensure equity of opportunity for every student in the Hart District,” said Engbrecht. “We still have work to do.”

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