The Santa Monica-Malibu schools are beginning the 2005-2006 academic year in an extremely strong position: In spite of continuing disregard by the state of its fiscal responsibility for the educational needs of California’s students, our schools will open this year with a balanced budget.
The fiscal support of our local communities and extensive fundraising work by volunteers has meant we are able to continue offering a full range of educational opportunities – academic, athletic, and artistic – to our students, pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The community’s generosity also means that we are able to continue to seek ways to provide students with options to support their varied learning needs. This is a markedly different picture from most districts in California. Our community’s investment in our schools continues to pay many dividends.
Both our state test data (STAR) and our Academic Performance Index (API) posted record highs for the district as a whole and for our individual schools.
We are very proud of the progress that has occurred in student achievement these past five years. Our teachers and administrators work hard to provide a high quality, standards-based education for every child in their classroom, and our test results indicate that their work is effective. Their work pays dividends for students in many other equally (if not more important) ways too: creating or increasing a love of reading, helping students make connections that help them push their thinking in new directions, and providing opportunities that help students see the myriad possibilities that the future holds for them.
We continue to hire and retain very highly qualified teachers and administrators. They, in turn, continue to challenge our students to grow, learn and perform at higher levels. It is a wonderful cycle for both – the progress of each inspires the other. The numbers of students entering honors and AP courses increases each year as does student performance in the classes and on the associated high stakes tests.
While we open school confident and proud, our optimism about the year and the future is tempered by a pending challenge. The future direction of public education in California will be largely charted by the outcome of this November’s special election. Two important actions you can take as a parent or member of the community supportive of education will be to fully educate yourself about the likely consequences of the options presented to voters through this special election, then vote. It is no understatement to say that the conditions for schools, as poor as they are when compared to the nation, will be seriously and negatively compromised should Proposition 76 pass. We will begin a major information campaign for our citizens starting next week.
In 2002, the communities of Santa Monica and Malibu engaged in thoughtful and productive discourse that led to the creation of our strategic plan, “Designing the Classroom of the Future. Excellence in Learning and Equality of Opportunity for All.” The seven initiatives – abundant resources, curriculum, differentiated learning, equity and equality of education, optimal class size, schools as community centers, universal access to quality early childhood education, family support programs, and after school care – we identified in 2002 remain core components of our daily work in 2005. The progress we have made toward achieving our mission, “extraordinary achievement for all while simultaneously closing the achievement gaps,” is inspiring, and helps us recommit to the tasks that lie ahead. Every child needs to succeed in school to be ready to face whatever the future may bring and our students stand poised to be very successful.Dr. Deasy is the Superintendent of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District