NEWS-LEDGER – MARCH 2, 2011
By Steve Marschke
The school board and superintendent of Washington Unified School District sat around a table for several hours on Friday, deciding on goals for the district for the 2011-2012 year. More specifically, they hashed out a set of benchmarks for the performance of their new superintendent, Dr. Dayton Gilleland, to be judged upon.
After polite debate, the board decided to set the bar pretty high for Gilleland and WUSD: they asked him for another 20-point increase this year in the students’ standardized test scores. The 2010 test scores in West Sacramento jumped 21 points, from 720 to 741. Last week, led by board president Dave Westin, the board asked Gilleland for another 20-point jump.
Students in the district are set to be tested in about two months, with results released in the fall.
“From my perspective, we should be able to hit a 20-point API increase,” said Westin. “For one thing, we’re starting from a low point. This isn’t Davis.”
Westin said he expected Gilleland to find the right personnel – school principals and others – to see that this happens.
“With personnel, we can go from ‘good’ to ‘great,’ he said. “The state’s objective for our API increase last year was 13 points. We’re only asking for seven points above that. We cannot have administrators or principals who have been inadequately evaluated. Some of them have to be evaluated and improved, and some of them just have to be moved on.”
Westin posited that there might be about 40 “problem” teachers in the district, standing in the way of progress.
“If we pulled the evaluations of those 40 teachers, probably some of (the job evaluations) have not been done, and some had ‘good’ evaluations because there’s no pressure,” Westin commented. “The issue is, at the end of the day, not budget, but personnel. . . We’re not Davis or Granite Bay, we are not starting so high (in test scores) that it’s hard to go up. I want a 20-point increase in API, and every single person in this district has to be evaluated properly, and we audit every single teacher in the district who has negative performance, and if they received a positive performance (evaluation), then we find out who gave it to them.”
Board member Mary Leland questioned the 20-point goal, saying “we need to set realistic goals that are ambitious.”
Speaking of troubled student performance:
“I don’t think that’s all on the schools,” said Leland. “A lot of it is socioeconomic, a lot of it is community norms.”
Superintendent Gilleland thought a gain of 20 points in this spring’s testing might be too much to demand:
“I’m not sure 20 points is reasonable and attainable,” he told the board. “This year’s testing is not going to be affected very much by what is decided here. . . If I had the right people in mind and could bring them in tomorrow, that wouldn’t guarantee (the results).”
But in the end, Westin’s goal prevailed, and the board “set the bar” at a 20-point API improvement this year.
Also on the new list of strategic goals are objectives such as clarifying student discipline policies (and finding ways to suspend or expel fewer students by intervening in problems earlier), enforcing the student dress code at all campuses, improving attendance, raising the passing rate for the high school exit exam, encouraging parent-teacher associations, and getting more families to use the “HomeLink” internet communication system.
The board also expressed a desire to change the expectation for high school graduation requirements in the district – raising the required course level to be in line with University of California admission requirements, unless a student’s family opts for a lower available standard.
Copyright News-Ledger 2011