The William S. Hart Union High School District’s administrators presented its first update of five regarding its strategic plan during its governing board meeting Feb. 2, a plan that was first adopted last year to guide staff toward continuous improvement across the next five years.
The strategic plan consists of five focus areas including student learning and instruction, safety and wellness, access and equity, financial and human resources, and communication and collaboration. According to Superintendent Mike Kuhlman, the district is committed to sharing its progress with the board and community.
“I want to take a moment to define a word that you will hear throughout, and that word is equity,” Kuhlman said. “Our definition in the Hart district is important for you to understand what our objective is here.”
“Our definition of equity means that we are making sure that every student has the resources and support they need to be successful,” he continued. “Through our strategic plan, we’ve made a commitment to the goal of every student becoming opportunity-ready.”
Hart district staff discussed four topics — instruction and common assessments, equitable grading practices, multi-tiered system of support and intervention and technology — related to student learning and instruction.
Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services Michael Vierra introduced his team and had each of the members address a part of the presentation. David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment, discussed the importance of a common curriculum.
“That means every student in all classes across the district, whether you go to Canyon, Hart, or Saugus, English 10 is English 10, wherever you are,” LeBarron said. “That’s what that means to monitor student achievement.”
According to LeBarron, to achieve common curriculum it takes essential standards, which serve as guidelines for instructors, assessments and data. He also said that this “road map” is available online through the district’s website under curriculum and assessment.
Jan Dashier, director of special programs, reviewed the district’s equitable grading practices outlined under its strategic plan.
“Grading is a form of communication measuring what students know, have demonstrated or what they can with the knowledge and new skills that they acquire,” Dashier said.
Dashier said district staff and teachers constantly have conversations to develop consistency and agree what an equitable system might look like. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure each student has equal access to the same high-quality education and accurate reporting of what they’ve learned regardless of what teacher they are assigned, she added.
Grading will usually look like a letter grade of A through F, which includes descriptive levels of proficiency to describe how much a student has learned and how they are progressing.
In addition, the district incorporates opportunities for feedback between teacher and student. Feedback provides a chance for students to check in about their progress and discuss ways to improve and increase their learning.
“Equitable grading systems are not about telling them how to do it,” Dashier said. “It’s about discovering what works, what’s nonnegotiable, and how we really can turn those grades into focusing on measuring the level of students’ learning for each student.”
There was also a discussion about the district’s implementation of its multi-tiered system of support and intervention. An example of these types of supports are the various programs during the summer, when the district offers credit recovery, some credit advancement courses, career technical education opportunities and more.
Lastly, staff talked about the importance of technology and how these tools can support student learning. Data is another critical aspect used by staff to support instruction, whether it’s to monitor student progress, attendance, grades, assessment and more.
Governing board members had a range of questions regarding the presentation — including how these updates are being communicated to stakeholders like parents, how often curriculum changes and the impact of that on the district’s plan.
Vierra answered the board’s respective questions, noting that the staff is constantly communicating with employees, whether it’s through professional development meetings or other times, and they are working toward informing parents about understanding grading, curriculum and more.
He also noted that changes in curriculum happen a lot as educational agencies approve new editions or update teaching materials, but it usually occurs every five years. As new material comes in, the staff will update and develop the district’s plan accordingly.
Together, these different aspects of the strategic plan create a foundation, Vierra said. It allows flexibility and creativity for teachers because they know their students and what works best for them on a daily basis, he added.
“…We all want to get to the same place, but it can be a diverse way we get there,” Vierra said. “That place is wherever the student wants to go.”