Last Thursday, after very little discussion, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education unanimously approved three performance targets for Superintendent John Deasy to meet during the current academic year.
The three targets, according to the District staff report, are as follows:
1. Analysis and the development of a plan for the strategic improvement of math performance, including programmatic, assessment, and professional development considerations for K-12.
2. The construction of a set of strategies that will lead to a deep and sharp focus on the improvement of instructional capacity in the district.
3. Analysis of the science curriculum, offerings and instruction, followed by the construction of a plan for the improvement of science program for K-12.
According to the District staff report, math performance was decided upon by the Board as a target because data from District and State assessment tests “from the last 5 years indicates uneven improvement of student achievement in math. Furthermore, the district has made a number of decisions with respect to access to algebra in 8th grade in response to the State’s dictum that all students are expected to complete and be proficient in algebra I by the conclusion of 8th grade.”
The second target, improvement of instructional capacity was chosen as a means of continuing the improvement in student achievement seen in the past four years. “To ultimately close the gap between privilege and poverty student achievement an intense focus on strategies to continuously improve instruction will be needed.”
The last target, an analysis of the science curriculum, was decided upon as there is an increasing emphasis on determining the Academic Performance Index (API) for District schools based on California Standard Tests results. In addition, there will soon be a “national certification of Advanced Placement courses.”
Board Vice-President Julia Brownley summed up the Superintendent’s targets for the year by stating they all were chosen with the goal of “closing the achievement gap in the District.”
The Board also unanimously approved a change in thee District’s inter-district permit policy.
Permits are issued to students whose families don’t live in the School District to allow them to attend a school in the District. The approved policy change mandates that all new inter-district permits be issued on a year-to-year basis.
Prior to the change, PERT permits (Parent Employment Related Transfers) to students whose parents work in the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and DERT permits (District Employee Related Transfers) to the children of district employees gave these students resident status, qualifying them to remain in the District through graduation.
The new policy change will not affect students already enrolled in the District on PERT or DERT permits.In other business, Superintendent John Deasy read a press release he prepared regarding the special election earlier this month. He said, “With the election behind us, three things now come into focus clearly. The first is that huge sums of money have been spent on the special election and can’t be used to help the State budget, and especially the education budget just being formed for next year. While this is a travesty and a consummate waste of taxpayer money, we still must focus on the looming structural problems with California’s budget. We will face a State deficit again next year. The size, scope, and impact are not well understood at this point, but they are real. We at the local level have been planning for this and have our own budget in excellent shape. We will have to face a budget-planning season with caution and careful prioritization of precious revenues. It is too early to say if we will need to face reductions, but it may well be likely given the State’s situation. The second issue to focus on is the national education budget. Talks are rapidly underway as to how Congress will fund the President’s monumental policy promises about how to reconstruct the devastated areas after hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Serious cuts to the federal education budget are being proposed. This will have significant impact upon our planning and ability to support current and proposed programs in our schools. And the third area of focus will be how to remedy all of the vast Williams demands that every district will need to address in an environment of diminishing resources. As most of you are aware in May of 2000, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the State of California claiming that the state had failed in its duty to provide students with equal educational opportunity. The lawsuit, known as the Williams v. State of California, was settled in August 2004. All districts in the State (including Santa Monica-Malibu) must begin to comply with many new measures of provisions of materials, courses, environments, and access. While we are, by far, in remarkable shape, we will need to invest in text books and materials over the next few years.”