Newhall Elementary School staff work to improve student success
The Newhall School District approved a $500,000 site plan for Newhall Elementary School to meet the social-emotional and educational needs of students who collectively are failing to meet standards or achievement in English or math.
Newhall Elementary staff presented their Single Plan Student Achievement to the district governing board at the last board meeting. According to Newhall Principal Jackeline Tapia, the COVID-19 pandemic had an immense impact on education, which was compounded by other factors students may face such as homelessness, food insecurity, language barriers and more.
“This past year, returning to full time was very difficult,” Tapia said. “We found ourselves in a new landscape, wider opportunity gaps, new fears and anxieties. But we also found ourselves with the determination of coming back to some sense of normalcy and to a typical year.”
Newhall Elementary will receive local and federal funding for its SPSA. Newhall Elementary is also a designated Title I school, which means a good portion of funding will come from Title I, federal funds used to help students meet state academic standards.
According to Tapia, the 2022-23 SPSA will serve as roadmap to meet the needs of the school’s students moving forward and also provide a vision for the campus as a whole to ensure high levels of academic success for students using an arts-integrated educational approach.
Newhall Elementary uses Fastbridge, a research-based universal screening and progress monitoring for academics and social-emotional behavior, which is one of many programs that schools use to collect data on student performance.
According to school staff, the Fastbridge aReading Group Screening Norms Report shows that 41% of Newhall Elementary’s second- through sixth-grade students perform in the average or above average categories compared to national norms in English. However, at the district level, a benchmark report indicates 71% of second- through sixth-graders fall in the “some risk” or “high risk” categories.
In math, the Norms Report shows that 51% of Newhall Elementary second- through sixth-graders are average or above average compared to national norms. But, again, 58% of second- and sixth-graders fall in the “some risk” or “high risk” categories.
The Fastbridge earlyMath Group Screening Report indicates 59% of kindergarten students and 56% of first-graders perform in the average or above average category compared to the national norms. At the district level, the benchmark percentage of kindergarten and first-grade students at “some risk” and “high risk” are both at a combined 54%.
Although data illustrates a dark reality for students, Newhall Elementary staff say there’s light at the end of the tunnel that began when they came back to campus.
“As we look at our data this school year, and reflect upon it, we need to think about the cycles that we went through over and over that were key to learning,” Tapia said. “What we did this year were assessments, data analysis, data meetings, a lot of collaboration and reflection that happened at meetings and our cycles of intervention.”
“As we look at our data, we can see that there’s a lot to celebrate, but there’s also areas for improvement. We need to make sure that every student gets differentiated, high-quality first-instruction and for every subject and then every grade level. So that is our plan.”
Newhall Elementary staff implemented various programs throughout the school year to bolster language arts and math learning in their students, as well as programs to support students and families outside of academia.
Learning Support Teacher Michelle Vasquez, a recent hire to Newhall Elementary, said there are many students and families enduring financial challenges and experiencing insecure housing, but she also saw a dedicated staff seeking to create a second home for students.
“It’s a place where students feel safe and cared for, and most of all, they know that we believe that they [students] can succeed,” Vasquez said. “This year we set our focus on creating multiple layers of support in reading. Though this wasn’t brand new, it’s something that was built on years of preparation.”
On top of the programs and support services, Vasquez facilitated a type of collaboration for each grade level and analyzed assessment data, which would lead to ideas and actions on how to best support students.
“We were grouping our students based on specific areas of need within each grade level,” Vasquez said. “We made our schedules and we ensured that all of our identified students were set to receive CORE, more and more.”
According to Vasques, Newhall Elementary completed five cycles of K-6 intervention because the team was large. Newhall Elementary staff also plan to create a safer and welcoming environment for students.
“We have recognized that our school’s social-emotional needs need to be addressed before academics and definitely simultaneously,” Vice Principal Katrina Strohl. “It’s not something that we just, you know, do a quick check-in. It’s something that is going to be constantly in front of our students wherever they need.”
According to Vasquez, with local and federal funding, Newhall Elementary will refine current practices that worked this year and add to their efforts to ensure students find more success the following school year.
“What we are going to do next year, and we’re most excited about, is that the screening from spring has identified our high-risk students, so we don’t have to wait,” Vasquez said. “We will hit the ground running.”