State, Vallejo Making Progress in Attempt to Reform Education
By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer
California school districts have won above-average grades in a national comparison of states using standards to drive their education reforms.
The Vallejo school district is among those trying to set high bars that students, teachers and administrators can cross with state standards.
"When you have a standards-based system everyone is clear on what the kids need to know," spokeswoman Tish Busselle said.
"Our goal is to set high expectations for students in meeting those standards," Busselle said.
For Vallejo, putting the so-called standards-based educational reforms into place over the last two years has involved teacher training, curriculum changes and new textbooks.
In addition, regular student assessments are conducted to see how well students are learning and where they might need help.
More focus was put on standards-based education in Vallejo after State Administrator Richard Damelio took control of the district, after the $60 million state bail-out loan two years ago.
Damelio is intent on both overhauling the budget and improving student achievement.
Test scores are one of the few indicators used to measure how well the reforms are working, Busselle said.
Under that indicator, Vallejo's efforts appear to be paying off.
The 2004 California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results showed improvement in every Vallejo grade, the best scores in a half decade.
Carlene Gundersgaard, district assistant superintendent of academic achievement and accountability, said aligning textbooks, lesson plans and other actions with state standards has been shown to help students learn more.
"For our kids to be successful after high school they will have to meet these standards that have been set. It's our job to make sure they are successful," Gundersgaard said.
The annual analysis released by the national publication Education Week showed California scoring an overall B-minus, barely above the national C-plus average.
The scores included assessments on standards, accountability, teacher training, school climate and other issues.
California saw significant test score gains on state tests but not on national tests, where the state remains among average achievers in the nation.
Further, California is still struggling with closing the achievement gap which exists due to Filipino and Caucasian students scoring higher on state tests than students from other ethnic and racial groups, according to the report.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell commended schools for their score on the national report, despite the low state funding of education.
California ranks 43rd in the nation in how much is spent per student. In 2003, California spent just 3.57 percent of its taxable resources on education, ranking 31st in the nation, O'Connell said.
- The Oakland Tribune contributed to this report.
- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 553-6832.
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