Mirror Staff Writer
The Santa Monica High School Committee On Redesign Efficacy (SCORE) presented their annual report at the recent Board of Education meeting, held on campus at Barnum Hall to accommodate the crowd of over 200. Parents and students voiced varying opinions about the effectiveness of the redesign that divided the school into six houses three years ago.
The report was based upon standardized test results, student grade point averages, faculty and parent surveys and interviews, reports by independent evaluators and small learning communities’ best practices determined by research. The committee found redesign success in raising student test scores on standardized state tests, better collaboration between teachers on interventions to help struggling students, increased student involvement in activities planning and better support for teachers.
Future challenges noted by the committee were “how to provide for continuous updating and improvement of curriculum, how to reduce the achievement disparity and class segregation correlated with race, ethnicity and social economic status and how to increase personalization in classroom instruction to complement the increased personalization of the house structure.” The report also included proposals to meet these challenges.
Committee members also suggested some long-range goals to go along with the District’s ongoing development of a 20-year Facilities Master Plan, including reducing the student population at SAMOHI and starting smaller local schools.
After the report, the Board heard from the community, which was divided on whether or not the redesign should continue. SAMOHI Senior Andrew Schweitzer told the Board, “The redesign has not brought about what we were promised, closer connections with our administrators or our counselors or something as simple as having classes being in the same building.”
Student Kena Stout stressed that the administration has shown “a lack of respect for students…and with the redesign many students felt there was absolutely no input by us and when we did give input they either laughed at us or just disregarded us. We felt our time was wasted so we just gave up.” She also criticized the District for creating the new administrative position of Director of Secondary Education for Dr. Ilene Straus, who resigned earlier in the week as the school’s Chief Education Officer, because she wasn’t a “very efficient CEO to begin with.”
Hispanic parents also questioned whether Straus should be offered a job at the District level and whether the redesign was responsible for increased racial tensions on campus. Marlene Herrera stated the redesign has caused “a lot of students to suffer” because it was not “implemented in the correct way.”
Other parents disagreed. Cindy Winthrop, who has had five of her six children attend SAMOHI, says the house system gives “children a place to belong…there’s been much better communication for me as a parent and my children have been able to speak personally to their counselors about their schedules. Give it a chance.”
Lori Horne, a parent of a senior, noted that since the redesign her daughter has had “a much more intimate relationship with the college counseling program and counselors and a relationship with the I House mentoring system.” There’s also been a “renewed staff enthusiasm, a pleasant registration process and a more consistent view on discipline.”
School Board members discussed and then accepted the report, and then asked District staff to see if funding can be found to help fund some of the proposals suggested by the SCORE committee. They also asked staff to examine why the committee found state standardized test scores have improved since the redesign was implemented but the GPAs of underachieving students, particularly minority students, have been falling.