YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Schools

Candidates outline strategy as more schools enter Program Improvement

By From page A1 | October 17, 2012

Alan Fernandes

This week, The Enterprise continues a series of articles contrasting the views of the five candidates for the Davis Board of Education — incumbent Susan Lovenburg and challengers Alan Fernandes, Jose Granda, Nancy Peterson and Claire Sherman. The top two vote-getters will be sworn in as trustees in December.

This week’s question: Last year, two Davis elementary schools were in Program Improvement status under federal No Child Left Behind legislation. This month, two more Davis elementary schools entered Program Improvement status. Already, we are seeing some Birch Lane and Montgomery families transferring their children to other schools, as well as families from Winters transferring into Chávez Elementary in Davis (because the Winters Spanish Immersion program was closed, and the Winters district is in Program Improvement). As a trustee, how will you address this instability at the elementary schools?

Granda: “The theme of my campaign, ‘Excellence in Education with Sound Financial Responsibility to Taxpayers,’ applies here.  Unless those families from Winters are willing to pay the parcel taxes that Measure E and C impose on Davis taxpayers, I would vote no to any transfers. It is not fair for Davis taxpayers to subsidize those who do not live here. This country is founded on constitutional principles of equality and fairness for everybody.

“Allowing transfers out of a school because it has been warned to improve is equally inappropriate. The end result would be low-performing, segregated schools. Those days are long gone. I propose a completely different solution that will set the standards for all schools equally. I propose redistributing the students in improvement status among all the schools in Davis. Then, there will be no need for transfers because all schools would have the same standards and quality. ”

Lovenburg: “This instability is the result of a failed federal education policy known as No Child Left Behind and the stigma of ‘Program Improvement.’ The school board has limited options. As required by federal law, we accommodate the requests of those families who wish to leave Program Improvement schools, though data demonstrates that these Davis schools are high-performing and student achievement is improving.

“As a district, we remain focused on helping all children achieve their full potential. Our Latino students, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English language learners and students with disabilities showed significant growth last year at Korematsu and Montgomery elementary schools through the interventions currently in place. Many of those same groups at Birch Lane, Pioneer and Willett elementary schools and Holmes Junior High also made good progress. Through the efforts of our educators, our students and their families, we are slowly but surely narrowing the achievement gap in Davis.”

Peterson: “We need to do a better job educating our community about the consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. It is more than likely that all schools receiving federal funding (Title I) will be in Program Improvement by 2014, when 100 percent proficiency is the target. The value drawn from NCLB is the examination of which students are not successful, both in general, and as compared to their peers. This is critical information as we seek to improve the quality of our educational program as it applies to all children in all schools, regardless of their funding source. Closing educational gaps through realistic goals is key.

“Common standards for remediation and intervention must be established, and districtwide resources should be equitably allocated to school sites. A strongly supported educational program, well-differentiated along the academic spectrum, will help each student reach their potential and provide greater stability to our elementary schools.”

Sherman: “Under the No Child Left Behind Act, after a school enters Program Improvement, students at the PI school can transfer to another public school in the district. If all schools in the district are in PI, the district must arrange for students to transfer to schools in neighboring districts. If there are few schools to choose from, priority is given to the lowest-achieving students from low-income families. If students cannot transfer to another school, the school must provide supplemental services to the school’s low-income children.

“As long as schools are in PI within the district, there is no way to staunch the transfers that are occurring. Thus, DJUSD needs to strengthen schools currently in PI and prevent other schools from entering PI. Title I students need supplemental services that go beyond the classroom. Programs need to be developed to ensure their scholastic needs are met at school and home.”

Fernandes: “To address instability at our elementary schools, my priority as a trustee will be to strengthen every school and enable parents to optimize the education of their children while remaining a part of their neighborhood communities. Program Improvement is one reason we currently see instability at some of our elementary schools. To strengthen every school, we must first provide our teachers with the tools and support necessary to effectively differentiate instruction and engage, challenge and educate each and every student.

“An educational system tailored to children’s individual strengths and needs is an enormous challenge, but making differentiated instruction the districtwide focus will improve all elementary schools, and lessen the likelihood that parents will feel the need to move their children away from their neighborhood school. As a trustee, I will insist that we look at all DJUSD program offerings and find ways to increase equity within and between our schools.”

Next week: What should the school board do with the district’s surplus properties (Grande, Wildhorse/Nugget Fields)?

Jeff Hudson

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