Topics Include: October 11 Agenda Item To Censure or Remove Ashjian, English Learners and Math Achievement,Some schools have improved test scores
October 11 Agenda Item To Censure or Remove Ashjian- Once again a major focus of attention at Board meetings was Trustee President Brooke Ashjian, his remarks regarding the district’s sex education curriculum and his wrangling with the LGBTQ community At the meeting on October 11, the single item on the main agenda was one placed by a local group of ministers, calling for Ashjian’s censure or removal from his Board office. After many members of the audience addressed the Board, Carol Mills announced that although she did not agree with Ashjian’s comments, he was exercising his appropriate free speech rights. Other Board members suggested that while Ashjian certainly had the right to free speech, he also was subject to the consequences of that speech. Chris DeLaCerda charged that Ashjian violated a number of Board bylaws committing him to respect the diversity of the community and district . The item was listed for discussion only. No action was taken. Ashjian’s term as president is up in December. Since the Board offices are now rotating positions, he will vacate the position soon whether the trustees determine to vote on the issue.
English Learners and Math Achievement - At the earlier meeting in October, the agenda actually focused on the students of the district, the progress of the English Language Learner students and the generally poor math achievement scores of the district The update on English Language Learners represented a progress report on a task force master plan developed in 2016. Roughly 38% of FUSD students (27,065) are currently English Learners or Redesignated English Learners who have tested out of further services. Interestingly the Redesignated students have scored better and shown more improvement on both math and English Language proficiency tests in 2016 and 2017 than their English only classmates. Among the English learners, however, only 3.7% are on grade level in English Language and only 5.4% in math, slightly improved since 2016, but way behind the statewide averages.
The District is expanding a network of lab schools having a focus on strategies addressing English Learners. Improvements in those schools were substantially better than for the district as a whole. In addition, dual immersion programs in English and Spanish have expanded this year at Wawona Middle School and McLane High School. There are plans to have at least one dual immersion site in each high school area. A Hmong after-school language program has had some success at Greenberg and Vang Pao. The District is working to assist teachers and principals to achieve bilingual credentialing to assist with efforts to improve services to this large group of students.
Some schools have improved test scores- Standardized test results in mathematics indicate that fewer than 25% of FUSD students are proficient. The State results are better (37%), but still poor. The staff presentation provided a review of “best practices” research, and a look at the 25 schools in FUSD which made gains of 10% or more over the last two years. But not all the news is bad—57 out of 66 elementary schools demonstrated improvements on the 2017 tests; 11 out of 15 middle schools and 3 out of 10 high schools improved as well. The district’s instructional support team has focused on issues that need to be addressed for our students to improve. They include: 1) making sure that teachers have a deeper understanding of math standards and how to teach concepts; 2) that teachers provide early interventions as soon as students are struggling; 3) that teachers provide feedback that contains a specific action remedy; 4) that the professional learning provided by the district for teachers better balances content and practice; and 5) that school leaders are trained to be attentive to the quality and results of math instruction on their campuses. Administrators told the Board that they are working toward a tiered system of supports for math including regular instruction, small groups for those struggling, and individualized tutoring and online help for those with significant needs