Principals offer plans to keep kids on track

Junior high and high school principals were in the spotlight Feb. 1 at a special meeting of the Board of Education highlighting their plans to raise academic achievement.

All three high schools met their adequate yearly progress criteria, which are required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. On the junior high side, however, La Colina was the only school that met all components of its 2004 AYP goals.

To put the presentations in context, interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis said, “this has a lot to do with our accountability climate and especially an accountability climate that comes to us at the federal level in a model that’s a fairly punitive model.”

The bulk of the meeting focused on what the schools are doing to improve their test scores. For example, Santa Barbara Junior High has implemented several new programs, including a “STAR club,” which provides additional instruction and training for 75 students who fall just below the proficient level in English and math, and mandatory tutorials for students who don’t pass their instructional focus tests, said principal Susan Salcido.

At Goleta Valley Junior High, principal Paul Turnbull has instituted a program of midterms and finals to help gauge when students are having trouble with their work, rather than “wait until August to find out what we did and did not do well.” Some of the other interventions include working with community mentors, after-school tutorials and holiday and summer academic camps. Turnbull also said he is working closely with Dos Pueblos High to develop a six-year educational plan for each student.

Following Goleta Valley’s lead, La Colina Junior High has eliminated general math and is enrolling all students in algebra. The philosophy is to put the students in a higher-level class and then “teach them and support them,” explained principal David Ortiz. State standards call for all eighth-graders to take algebra.

Ortiz also noted that the principals are working together on ideas and strategies.

Jo Ann Caines, La Cumbre Junior High’s new principal, attended the meeting but did not make a presentation because she had just started her job the day before.

“Day Two and I’m still smiling,” she said.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 10, 2005.

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