NEWS-LEDGER – OCT 26, 2011 –
By Steve Marschke
Local school district officials believe they’re riding a wave of success, and that feeling will likely be celebrated in Tuesday’s first-ever “State of the District” dinner and address.
The keynote speech will come from Dave Westin, president of the board of trustees for Washington Unified. He promises “extremely good news” in his address. Westin has been pushing for administrators to find a way to increase student test scores across WUSD campuses, and the district recently learned it posted its second consecutive year of 20-plus point gains in API testing.
“I expect to discuss the state of the district and of the individual school sites, and what they have achieved,” he told the News-Ledger.
Westin added that he expects to propose new initiatives for the coming year – but he wasn’t quite ready to discuss those in a recent interview.
How, in the board president’s view, did WUSD accomplish its test score gains?
“Principally, by running it like a business and holding people accountable,” he said. “We’ve set specific goals and objectives. We are mandating that every employee in the district be properly evaluated.”
Employees weren’t consistently rated and graded in the past, said Westin.
“We’ve had administrators spend more time observing education in the classroom and providing feedback to teachers, and also engaging more with parents,” he added.
The board president also credits some of his “initiatives,” such as one designed to empower parents in their children’s education.
School superintendent Dayton Gilleland said the district has had the highest two-year API gains of any of the 32 “comparably sized” districts in California, and he credits the previous WUSD administration as having done a lot of the “heavy lifting” for those gains.
“I think teachers are working very hard to work collaboratively with the assessment tests,” said Gilleland. “Teachers are working together to determine strategy. We’re testing more along the way (not just once a year). That gives us more of an idea on how to fill in the gaps.”
“We’re more strategic in what we teach, and more responsive in terms of catching (students) up when something is missed.”
Is this “teaching to the test”? In concentrating on standardized tests causing anything, such as essay writing, to be left behind in this kind of education?
“That might be one of the things,” said Gilleland. “The teachers would tell you the downside is that we have a very scripted curriculum. There’s a great emphasis on math, English and language arts.”
Tuesday’s event is priced at $25 and will be held at River City High, but reservations were due by Oct. 14.
Copyright News-Ledger 2011
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