Castaic school district working on improving test scores, attendance

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

The Castaic Union School District is aiming to provide a quality education to its students, including having the right teachers in the right classroom and teaching based on state standards. 

As part of the district’s Learning Control and Accountability Plan mid-year report, Allison West, the district’s director of educational services, presented to the governing board last week what the district is doing well and what it needs to work on. 

Every school district in California is required by the state to present a mid-year LCAP report by Feb. 28. 

Student grading and testing 

The district hopes to have all students no more than five points below the state standard in math as well as increasing English language arts scores by 10 points, neither of which occurred after the 2023 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress was administered, West said. 

As part of the district’s plan to improve those scores, 50% of students are expected to be at grade level when it comes to iReady math scores, and 85% for English. 

iReady is an online platform and its “programs support every learner on their path toward grade-level success. By connecting to actionable, intuitive data, teachers know where to focus and students become more capable and engaged,” according to its website. 

During the latest round of testing in December, 36% of students were at grade level in math and 47% in English. 

“We do have some more months to get there,” West said. 

West added that all students should have the standards-aligned core instructional materials that the district is using to improve those scores. 

Having the right teachers in place is also a target of the district, with four teachers currently not fully credentialed for their positions. Superintendent Bob Brauneisen said the reason for that is those teachers are in a program and “it’s just a matter of time of finishing” to get those credentials. 

West said three of those staff members are in special education. 

“It’s very hard to find special education staff members right now,” West said. “So, the fact that we have good people that are in programs finishing and doing that, that’s what we want.” 

Attendance and chronic absenteeism 

As of December, the district has an attendance rate of 95.2%, just within the target of 95-98% set by the district. 

Even better news for the district is its chronic absenteeism rate, which dropped nearly 48% as of Dec. 15. The target set by the district was no more than 20% of students being chronically absent, and that number is now at 12%. 

The issue now, West said, is ensuring that the positives continue. 

“We are comparing it to a year after kids came back (to school), so we knew that this would be like a honeymoon period, but we have a lot more work to do.” 

Having adequate transportation for students outside of walking distance of school campuses, another goal, is something the district is working on. A study session was held last week in which governing board members were provided with different options for either continuing or dismantling those transportation options. 

Irene Boden, the district’s assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, said the attendance fallout from removing transportation would be unknown until that point in time comes. 

Where is the money going? 

A quick look at the expenditures on the district’s LCAP goals would seem to indicate that the district is not spending enough money. 

But that is not exactly the case, West said, as the district has been able to use grants and other restricted funds to ease how much of the general fund is being used. 

Some of the key expenditures budgeted include: $327,500 for supplemental instructional materials, of which only $13,560 was spent; $110,000 for building teacher capacity, of which only $9,200 was spent; $93,700 for an instructional coach, of which nothing has yet been spent; and $255,500 for implementing expanded learning opportunities, of which nothing has yet been spent. 

An instructional coach has been hired, according to West, but that person’s position must be filled before they can transfer to being the coach. 

Boden said using general fund money when restricted fund money could be acquired would essentially be taking away from other areas of need. 

“You want to use those restricted dollars because, in essence, they’re restricted,” Boden said. “And if you can’t use them first, then you’re taking away from other things that could be done.” 

Keeping general fund dollars out of the equation, for the most part, is also important as school districts get ready for a state budget shortfall, capitalized by a 0.76% cost-of-living adjustment that the Legislative Analyst’s Office expects to be handed out. 

The COLA for the current school year was 8.22%, the largest ever given out by the state. 

The Castaic school district has a mandate to have a reserve fund that is at least 5% of the district’s budget, above the state’s mandate of 3%. 

“We have to maintain that general fund requirement, and we have inflation going on and cost increases,” Boden said. “We’re heading into some tighter budget times, and so it’s just fiscally prudent to constantly look at that ending fund balance and make sure that we have enough to facilitate the learning of children moving forward.” 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS