The Newhall School District remains at the highest performing level in math, according to the data released this week by the California Dashboard.
The dashboard shows that the school district improved 2.5 points in mathematics, and is now 38.5 points above standard in that area. The K-6 district also declined 3.7 points in English language arts between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school year, but remains 42.6 points above standard.
Statewide, in English language arts, schools averaged scores that were three points below what the California Department of Education considered standard, and 33.5 points below standard in mathematics.
“Academically, we did really, really well,” said Superintendent Jeff Pelzel. “Our math academic is really high. It is a continuous strength of ours as a district.”
In terms of student group details based on performance level in English, no students tested in the “red”; socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities tested in the “orange”; English learners and Hispanic students in the “yellow”; African American, Asian, Filipino and white in the “green”; and students of two or more races tested in the “blue.”
The district as a whole tested in the “green” or second-highest performance level in English.
In terms of student group details based on performance level in math, no students tested in the “red” or “orange”; English learners and students with disabilities tested in the “yellow”; African-American, socioeconomically disadvantaged and Hispanic students tested in the “green”; and Asian, white, Filipino and students of two or more races tested in the “blue.”
Overall, the district tested in the “blue” in mathematics.
The data shown on the Dashboard stated the district had met standards in the following categories: basics (teachers, instructional materials, facilities); implementation of academic standards; parent and family engagement; local climate survey and access to a broad course of study.
Pelzel credited professional development and a strong curriculum taught by the teachers as a key to the district’s successes.
The district’s demographics also show 6,539 students are enrolled in the district, 40.7% are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 23.3% are English learners and 0.4% are foster youth. Of the district’s 1,179 English-learners, 58.5% are making progress toward English language proficiency.
Pelzel said one of the areas the district would be looking to build on is continuing to improve the scores of students with disabilities. The district is already using “Steps to Advance” as a bridge for special education students.
“That is a real concerted effort for us is to really ensure that our kids have access to core instructional materials that kids in the general education setting have,” said Pelzel. “And we’re really pushing towards more of an ‘inclusion model’ where we are trying to find as much time and opportunity for our special education kids to be included in the general education setting whenever possible.”
Another component of the dashboard the district is looking to improve on, much like other districts, is chronic absenteeism. For the 2019 data, NSD was recorded in the yellow, with 5.8% of students missing 10%, or more than 18 days of instruction.
“We are definitely messaging to parents around the importance of kids being in school every day for learning opportunities, plus, also because the structure of the classroom is so much more collaborative where kids are working in student groups and their teammates are dependent upon that and engaging in conversation with the person who’s sitting next to them. And when that person is not a part of that group or not there, the structures change in the classroom,” said Pelzel.
Pelzel noted the suspension data for the district had improved from 1.1% of all the district’s students being suspended at least once in 2018, to 0.7% in 2019. Pelzel said the district had seen improvement in part due to the positive behavior interventions and supports the district has implemented now at all 10 school sites.
“Overall, there’s a lot to be proud of, yet there’s still things that we can work on,” Pelzel said. “Our motto is ‘getting a little better each day,’ and if we can get a little better each day in everything we’re doing, in the end, those little bits of getting better actually end up meaning a lot for kids.”