A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor
As part of its efforts to improve educational outcomes for all students, the Susanville School District has begun working with the Fowler, California based educational research firm, DataWorks, to improve instruction and maximize student learning.
This last spring, educators from the DataWorks team worked with school staff from McKinley, Meadow View and Diamond View schools to improve efficiency in the classroom and to systematically develop better student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions.
“We are enthusiastic to have selected DataWorks as our state-approved consultant,” stated Jason Waddell, Superintendent. “DataWorks has been working with schools since 1997 as an external evaluator to recognize and systematically provide support to improve student performance.”
The need for an consultant was precipitated by sanctions in the No Child Left Behind legislation that has begun to affect most schools in the region. At its November 9th, 2011 meeting, the State Board of Education assigned corrective action to fifty-five school districts (with a total of three hundred forty-three schools) in California; the districts ranged in size from small school districts (with one school) to large, urban districts (with ninety-seven schools) in Program Improvement status under the Federal No Child Left Behind legislation.
“DataWorks operates from a specific philosophical approach to school reform- optimize the effectiveness of classroom instruction so that students learn more the first time they are taught. The focus is GIFT- Great Initial First Teaching,” Waddell said.
In previous years, the State Board of Education has issued this same status to multiple districts representing hundreds of schools in California. The Susanville School District was one of the fifty-five districts that were targeted for school improvement this year by the state.
Under No Child Left Behind legislation districts and schools are expected to reach rising growth targets each year during mandatory state testing in a variety of student subgroups. Although some schools may not have enough students in a particular sub-group to be targeted under the act, most districts have several sub-groups that must meet their growth targets each year. When the sub-groups are not meeting growth targets, districts fall into Program Improvement status.
According to Waddell the Susanville School District has three ‘numerically significant’ sub-groups; Hispanic/Latino, White and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged. Each of the three subgroups met growth criteria in Mathematics on the 2011 STAR test, but failed to reach their targets in English-Language Arts.
For the 2011 test, 67.6% of students were expected to score proficient or advanced. This expectation will increase to 78.4% for ELA and 79% for Math on the spring 2012 tests. These Federal measurements differ from the California expectations where the Susanville School District met all state growth expectations as measured on the Academic Performance Index.
“We have been working diligently as an entire district to examine our instructional practices and to increase student achievement on state standards daily,” said Waddell. “We are excited about the work we are doing now and in the near future in the Susanville School District.”
As part of their Program Improvement corrective action sanction, the Susanville School District has received $300,000 in Federal Grant monies to support improved instructional practices in the district. The grant money can only be used to support program improvement efforts as outlined in the district’s Local Education Agency plan.
Additionally, the District must hire a state-approved consultant to assist the district in their efforts and all grant money must be spent by September of 2013. Approximately 1/3 of the grant money will be used to support the consultant team and the work they will be doing with district staff over the next eighteen months.
Waddell went on to explain that teachers and administrators have already begun using strategies from DataWorks and the school staff has been studying the concepts of ‘great first teaching’ for the past several months.
“I have already been hearing from staff and parents that students are recognizing a noticeable difference in their learning during class time,” he said.
DataWorks consultants were in Susanville training with the Susanville School District staff in April and will return in the fall and continue work with staff on modeling lessons in the classroom and providing coaching support to teachers centered around instruction as well as hosting workshops in the fall.
“As a district, we are thrilled to be working with cutting-edge professionals on creating the best educational institutions for the students of our community,” said Waddell.