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News Archive

Standards Based Grading: a better way to communicate about student learning

 

Change, as they say, is always hard.  Over the last few years, CUSD has been shifting towards Standards Based Grading (SBG) in the elementary classrooms.  While teachers have been explaining this concept for the last few years, it seems many parents still find the new system confusing.  Let’s take a quick look at the foundational ideas and practical uses of SBG.

 

SBG is a “Best Practice” because it brings focus and clarity to grading.  Old style grading gives parents an average grade in one content area, without identifying the student’s proficiency levels in specific areas.  For example, if a student comes home with a 90% on a math test, she might have gotten 100% of the multiplication questions correct, and only 80% of the division questions right.   Increasing the number of standards assessed on a single test makes the results even more likely to hide poor performance in a single area.  In another scenario, a student could come home with an 80% grade on a test having scored 100% on questions related to four standards and getting all the questions related to a fifth standard wrong.  Under the old system, parents would naturally presume the student was doing fine overall, when in fact they are struggling greatly with one particular concept.  SBG helps parents know their child’s strengths and areas for improvement accurately.  With technology, we can now separate and track test questions based on the standard they assess, and assign a “grade” which indicates the student’s level of mastery of each standard. 

 

SBG also separates behaviors from achievement.  Students who do not turn in homework traditionally have lower grades, often based on faulty data.  In a Standards Based system, academic content knowledge is measured separately from learning habits and behaviors.  In this way, we can accurately communicate to parents whether their child needs to focus on building academic skills or changing habits.  Again, SBG is different from the old system, but more precise and useful once parents understand it.

 

Unfortunately, the idea of SBG hits a snag after 6th grade.  That snag is our traditional college entrance / acceptance procedure.  It forces secondary schools (Grades 9-12) to have a system where students earn one letter grade in each class, which the school then uses to calculate a grade point average (GPA).  Colleges will not look at separate content mastery and learning behavior grades.  Instead, they use GPA’s to judge whether students are prepared.  7th and 8th grade become the transitional years where we try to prepare students for this new way of grading.  Unfortunately, that college-driven system labels students inaccurately, and gives students and parents poor information upon which to make important decisions.  

 

Almost 50% of the college students never complete their BA/BS degrees.  They enter college with low content knowledge but high learning behavior skills, and are overwhelmed by the amount of material they must master.  Or, they enter college with high content but low skills, and fail because they are not in the habit of meeting deadlines and instructor expectations.  If we could get colleges to use SBG entrance requirements, their completion rates would, I think, increase greatly. 

 

Parents of students in grades 7-12 can help their child by keeping these concepts in mind when talking to teachers and reading progress reports / report cards.  Ask teachers to help you understand whether lower grades are the result of a learning gap, or a behavioral issue.  Also, make sure you understand the teacher’s grading system.  Some classes put significant emphasis on participation, which is a valid method of grading for certain subjects.  But, make sure your student knows that in college, and the world of work, effort counts to some degree, but achievement lets you pass your class or earn your paycheck.  Even if we cannot use SBG at all grade levels, the concepts allow everyone to see more clearly the real issues at play, and prepare students more thoroughly for the world of today and tomorrow. 

Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:8/21/17
Audience: Homepage and Administration


Teacher Shortage Reaching Crisis Level

California has a looming education crisis which hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.  While our society seems fixated on the issue of standardized testing, we are ignoring an impending extreme shortage of qualified teachers.  

Over the last decade enrollment in teacher preparation programs has declined by nearly 80%.  In the past five years the number of credentials issued to fully qualified teachers has declined from 25,000 per year to near 10,000.  At the same time the number of temporary and provisional credentials has doubled.  Our public schools are being staffed by more teachers who have had less training.  Adding to the problem, 30% of California's teachers will likely retire within the next 10 years.  

CUSD has been fortunate to find fully credentialed teachers for the vast majority of our recent teacher openings.  96% of our teachers are fully credentialed, and those who are not, are working toward that goal. However, if we cannot get more students to pursue a career in teaching, we will not be able to escape the looming shortage.  

CHS hosted a career day yesterday.  I spoke to nearly 100 students about educational careers, and encouraged them to consider teaching.  It was a bit disheartening to see so few hands raised when I asked how many of them were thinking of going into teaching.  At a similar event a decade ago, I had 10-15% of the students indicate interest in a teaching career.   Yesterday it was 2-3% at most.  

Teaching has never been an easy job, and never will be.  But it is one of the most essential and rewarding careers.  The historical issues of low pay and tough working conditions are changing.  There will always be new challenges to overcome, but more and more our society is recognizing that quality teachers are the key to increased student learning.  

I encourage parents to talk to their student about careers in education.  Students who have an interest should talk to the CHS Counselor for guidance.  Our Vision for this district is to insure an excellent education for all students.  We will never reach that goal if we cannot put quality teachers into each and every classroom.   

A short presentation about careers in education is attached.  

Attachments:
Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:10/29/15
Audience: Administration


September Update

If we do the right work, achievement scores will take care of themselves.  It’s our view that scores reflect a high quality education; we work toward a well-balanced system focused on delivering a high quality education to ALL students.  Our primary focus is on increasing how much our students know and are able to do; test scores will reflect our progress. 

 

Our District Goals for the year are essentially:

  • Increase Student Achievement.
  • Close Achievement Gaps.
  • Improve the atmosphere, communication, technology, and facilities within CUSD.

 

Student learning depends on an aligned curriculum, and sound first instruction.  For the instructional staff our emphasis remains on implementing the Common Core, and insuring that students get research-based instructional strategies.  We continue to deepen our use of data as a tool for understanding where we’re being effective, and where we need to change.

 

 

CUSD is taking a different approach to supplying services to our expelled and at-risk students.  Last Tuesday the board agreed to a plan which would mean transporting expelled students to the Feather River Academy run by Sutter Co. Office of Ed.  While we will face costs for transportation, the SCOE has agreed to view these students as inter-district transfers.  Which means that we will not be billed back for any excess costs.  Last year the bill from CCOE amounted to over $73K for our Community and Opportunity School students.  We can transport students to FRA every day of the year for about 1/4 of that cost.  More importantly, the size of the FRA makes it possible to offer our kids more programmatic and support options than CCOE’s programs could ever be expected to offer – it’s simply a matter of economies of scale. 

 

We continue to make progress on the SELPA issue.  Whatever happens with the SELPA our first concern is to maintain the quality of services to our students.  We know that this is a stressful situation, but believe that this is a necessary step to insure that all students interests are considered.  I will send out more information as it becomes available.

 

We had an unexpected influx of students into 7th grade at the start of school.  13 new students pushed some sections of core classes above 34 students!  Mrs. Johnston and the EMS leadership team are working on solutions. 

 

In the long run, it looks like we are likely to have an ongoing issue with space.  Our Kindergarten class was above 125 again this year, and I just got a call from the Colusa County Planning Commission.  I’ve been asked to serve on a county delegation which will speak to a company interested in bringing 500 new jobs to the area.  We’ll need to be thinking about how we’ll potentially serve several hundred new students within 5 years.

 

Those of you who’ve been watching the progress of the new portable at Burchfield know that we’ve not opened it to student use.  We have some ADA access and fire code issues we must fix before the inspector will sign off.  It should be done and ready for kids by December. 

 

Summer school was a resounding success!  Thank you to all of our staff who worked through the heat to help 150+ of our students learn!   Ms. Lemenager (Erika) will be reporting on the program at the September board meeting.  ( I don’t want to steal her thunder, but the assessment results look very good!)

 

As a reminderhere is the link to the emergency procedure we use: 

http://iloveuguys.org/srp.html   please make sure you, and your students, are familiar with this information.  If you have any questions, please see your site Principal.

 

Have a fun, safe and relaxing Labor Day!

 

Thank you for all you do for our kids!

 

Dwayne

Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:8/29/14
Audience: Administration


District Activity Update

Good Morning,

 At the board meeting last week, the board approved the district budget and directed the admin team to go forward with hiring of some additional staff.  Those new positions include a 3rd grade and 4th grade teacher, and a core/intervention/elective teacher at the High School.  As we looked at the changes in our revenues, the changes in our enrollment, and the achievement / intervention needs, we thought this the best course of action to recommend.

 With the complete shift in our projected revenues we can begin to think about making some additional changes:

  1. We need to address staff compensation.  Obviously this is an issue that will be discussed in negotiations, but the district leadership recognizes that it has been a long dry spell.  Our projected revenues exceeded even what we anticipated 3 months ago – obviously taking care of our staff is a top priority.   
  2. There is the need for additional support staffing.  MOT, ELL and some other additional classified support would help us create an environment more conducive to learning.
  3. We must be thinking about technology and associated professional development.  The Common Core Implementation “Grant” from the state will help us immensely in this regard.  In case you’ve not heard, that money is one-time revenue from the state earmarked for use on CCSS implementation, training, and technology purchases (computers/tablets/network).  Our current projection for the amount of that grant stands at $230,000.  We will need everyone to be thinking about how best to split the utilization of that funding. 
  4. Professional development remains high on our list of priorities.  We understand that new instructional techniques, new technology, and new standards all require training to implement effectively. 
  5. Facilities – we have an estimated $10M+ in facility renovation and repair needs.  I’ve been in contact with the CDE Division of School Construction for advice, and we will soon begin the process of sending out RFP/RFQ for a financial advisory firm to partner with us on seeking a modernization bond. 

 At this point we will need everyone’s help in thinking about how best to allocate the available funds.  Please do communicate thoughts and ideas about these topics to your department/building leaders. 

 I’ve attached our first volume of Focusing On Improvement.  This will be a monthly publication to support instructional staff as we implement new techniques.  As we move forward with our plans for improvement, it is good to remind ourselves that this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward.  Our mission is to provide a high quality education, which means we must offer high quality instruction.  And we must build a system that supports high quality instruction.  These things take time, and as I’ve said, we won’t get there overnight.  But with your help, we will get there. 

 One note regarding achievement and learning:  Districts received an “early release” of the STAR test scores.  In almost every level the CUSD numbers of proficient and advanced students increased, and the FBB and BB numbers decreased.  That’s an objective indicator that we’re headed in the right direction! 

 I hope your summer is full of fun, relaxation and rejuvenation.  Summer’s flying by, and school will be back in session in just a short while, so make sure to take some time to recharge your batteries. 

 

Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:7/2/13
Audience: Administration


April Hawk Talk

I've attached a copy of the presentation from last evening's meeting.

Attendance was down a bit but the conversation was lively.  Most of the conversation focused on the need for increasing achievement and the implementation of the district's improvement strategies.

In preparation for the next meeting, I will be contacting teachers who were involved in GATE activities in the past to get an idea of how that ran, and to gage staff interest in creating more GATE opportunities for our kids.  If the interest is there, a parent group will move forward, in collaboration with the teachers, to find funding sources for the additional activities.

 

Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:4/11/13
Audience: Administration


Staff Trained on Safety

School staff recently participated in a training on new additions to the District's emergency response procedures.  The changes are based on the latest information and research about school safety using Standard Response Protocols.  More information about SRP may be found at the i love you guys Foundation home page: http://iluvuguys.org/

Next steps for the district include training the students, and practicing drills with students. Information will be sent home to parents, and be part of the Hawk Talk community meetings. 

Safety has always been, and remains, top priority for everyone in Colusa Unified Schools.

Posted by: Dwayne Newman, District Admin, Colusa Unified School District Published:2/14/13
Audience: Dwayne Newman, Homepage, Administration, Burchfield Primary School, Colusa Alternative High School, Colusa High School, Colusa Home School, Egling Middle School and Homepage


Community Meeting

Focusing on Improvement

 

I left last night’s community meeting feeling very energized.  The parents who participated demonstrated why Colusa is such a strong and vital community. 

 

Educational research is very clear.  The top school systems in the world share these characteristics:

  1. A safe and orderly environment.
  2. Clear and focused goals for each student.
  3. Frequent monitoring of each student’s learning.
  4. Additional learning time for students who struggle.
  5. High expectations for every student.
  6. Strong leadership.
  7. A collaborative culture.
  8. Effective partnerships with parents and the community.

 

Districts where everyone works to implement these ideas invariably succeed in creating more inviting, more effective, higher achieving schools.    

 It was clear from our discussions last evening that the community of Colusa embraces and supports these concepts.  During the mission statement discussion, we heard phrases like; cutting edge, maximize potential, bridge gaps, safe, clear and high expectations, challenging curriculum, and instilling pride.  What I noticed in particular, was how frequently parents said, “All kids” or “Every child” or “Each student”.  It’s clear that we share a commitment to increasing the District’s capacity to educate each and every student who enters our system.    

Similarly, in talking about our vision for the future of CUSD, parents were very clear that we do not want an average school system, we want a great school system.  Implementing the steps necessary to make this vision a reality can be a struggle.  Excellent districts bring everyone together and build in practices which help attain their vision by creating a very focused and intentional plan for improvement. 

 Creating a mission statement and vision for the district helps everyone clearly understand the expectations for daily operations, and the path the district will take to excellence.  The key is a mission statement that is clear and concise, and then translating those words into visible actions.  As importantly, a clear mission guides the district and keeps it from experiencing “mission drift.”  Public schools simply do not have the resources to implement every good idea presented.  A clear mission, implemented with fidelity, keeps a district from losing focus. 

 A clear mission also helps districts effectively utilize limited resources.  If we say something is central to our mission, we should be funding it to the best of our ability…we need to “put our money where our mouth is.”  Spending should be tightly aligned with intent.

 Colusa USD has many strong foundational pieces in place.  If we build on what we already have in place, and get ever more parents and community members involved, we will help create a superb school system.  Last night’s meeting was a great step in creating a system which continues to improve and has a clear and focused plan to achieve a vision of excellence. 

 Thank you to everyone who attended.  Check back here for a date for our next community meeting. 

Dwayne Newman

Posted by: Dwayne Newman Published:11/15/12
Audience: Administration


Report of the District Superintendent
Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:4/18/12
Audience: Administration and Homepage


Report of District Superintendent
Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:10/26/11
Audience: Administration


SUPERINTENDENT'S REPORT
Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:10/17/11
Audience: Administration


REPORT OF THE DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

The District Superintendent provides a report each month to the Board of Trustees at their regularly scheduled meeting.  To read these monthly reports please click on the link below.

Superintendent's Report 8-16-11.pdf

Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:8/17/11
Audience: Homepage and Administration


WELCOME BACK TO SCHOOL!

It is a pleasure to welcome students, staff, parents and community members to the 2011-12 school year.  In spite of a struggling economy and ongoing state budget crisis, I am pleased to share that our school community will continue to enjoy a well-rounded educational experience.  This is not to say that we have not had to make significant reductions over the past 3-4 years, but rather to compliment many individuals and groups for their dedication to ensure that today’s youth will be provided the same opportunities enjoyed by students before them.

Special appreciation goes out to our support groups; Colusa Redskin Athletic Foundation, Friends of Music, Friends of Ag, Burchfield and Egling Parent Clubs, and the Colusa High School Alumni Association for their tireless work and dedication to raise funds and promote many school improvement projects.  We also want to thank our business community for their generosity and our parent committees for recognizing a need and addressing it.  Colusa is truly a community that supports its youth!

Colusa Unified is also fortunate to have dedicated staff members who continue to provide a variety of activities to enrich the lives of our students.  During these difficult budget times, both our certificated and classified staff members have been very supportive in problem solving and managing limited resources to keep cuts as far away from students as possible. 

I encourage parents and community members to visit our schools and see the wonderful things that are going on and the outstanding campus improvements that have been accomplished.  Because of the level of support our students and schools receive, I am confident that the 2011-12 school year will be filled with meaningful learning opportunities and will provide life-long memories for students and families.

 Larry Yeghoian, District Superintendent    

Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:8/3/11
Audience: Homepage and Administration


WELCOME TO THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR!

It is a pleasure to welcome students, staff, parents and community members to the 2011-12 school year.  In spite of a struggling economy and ongoing state budget crisis, I am pleased to share that our school community will continue to enjoy a well-rounded educational experience.  This is not to say that we have not had to make significant reductions over the past 3-4 years, but rather to compliment many individuals and groups for their dedication to ensure that today’s youth will be provided the same opportunities enjoyed by students before them.

Special appreciation goes out to our support groups; Colusa Redskin Athletic Foundation, Friends of Music, Friends of Ag, Burchfield and Egling Parent Clubs, and the Colusa High School Alumni Association for their tireless work and dedication to raise funds and promote many school improvement projects.  We also want to thank our business community for their generosity and our parent committees for recognizing a need and addressing it.  Colusa is truly a community that supports its youth!

Colusa Unified is also fortunate to have dedicated staff members who continue to provide a variety of activities to enrich the lives of our students.  During these difficult budget times, both our certificated and classified staff members have been very supportive in problem solving and managing limited resources to keep cuts as far away from students as possible. 

 I encourage parents and community members to visit our schools and see the wonderful things that are going on and the outstanding campus improvements that have been accomplished.  Because of the level of support our students and schools receive, I am confident that the 2011-12 school year will be filled with meaningful learning opportunities and will provide life-long memories for students and families. 

Larry Yeghoian, Superintendent

Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:7/22/11
Audience: Administration


2010-11 Budget Update

The current budget crisis in California is going through a very slow recovery and many of the State’s economic predictions are not living up to their projections.  The district has not received any news of mid-year cuts to-date, but is very concerned about the potential for the rest of this year and 2011-12.  With that introduction, I am pleased to share that currently our district budget is balanced through 2013.  We continue to be very conservative in our approach to replace staff and fund new projects.  CUSD staff have worked together to keep cuts as far away from the classroom as possible and to a large extent, we have accomplished this.  The district goals remain the same: maintain the best programming for students, and retain staff.   

Posted by: Mary Lyttle Published:12/7/10
Audience: Administration