Test question: When our schools score well academically compared to the rest of Orange County, is it excellent teaching, smart students, well-educated high achieving parents, small school district with 50% higher annual spending per student than other county schools?
If you answered all of the above you got it right.
We have the highest paid teachers county-wide, consistently delivering high value for students. So it’s not surprising after teachers and students drilled long and hard that most students outperformed larger county school districts in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).
CAASPP grades public schools based on the percentage of students learning as expected at grade level under Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The good news is 30% to 40% of students are proficient at grade level, and 45% to 50% are ready at the next grade level or higher.
Well done, but hardly cause for complacency. Indeed, a report by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy concludes high rates of above grade testing nationwide reveal increased percentages of students ready to accelerate but denied that opportunity.
Up to 2 million students in California test a full year ahead of grade level, too many treading water in a sea of squandered potential. Johns Hopkins describes as “academically invisible” this growing class of proficient but under-served students.
Student idleness syndrome is expressed in the recent state Healthy Kids Survey reporting unprecedented levels of student “anguish” and increased substance abuse at LBHS.
Ironically, students testing below grade are less “invisible” than students who test proficient. Clearly, the CCSS promise to reverse decline in intellectual rigor so “every student succeeds” at high potential remains unredeemed. Students responding well when challenged to achieve often cope poorly with low-expectations, dreading boredom not failure.
Johns Hopkins recommends fine-tuning curriculum locally, accelerating learning for students when ready. Instead, our elected school board did the opposite, eliminating rather than enhancing critically needed acceleration classes at Thurston and LBHS.
Policies recommended by over-paid outside consultants and under-qualified senior staff who are now gone need to be re-evaluated based on experience. In doing so we need to support and rely on local teachers we know and trust, working with our new superintendent.
Despite the need to enhance accelerated learning for individual college readiness, collectively our students should be commended. The highest grade level proficiency rate county-wide honors their teachers, parents and our community schools.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach
The writer is one of three candidates for school board.