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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 54 ~ Feb. 26, 2003

Well, here's a bit of good news; the Monrovia schools' API rankings look okay. Also, I didn't get all I wanted - so I was a bit disappointed - but I got something. I'll tell you about it in a bit.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

TIPS ON BUYING A HOME ~ Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Joel Shawn was pretty excited about the relative API scores. This is a nice change of attitude by the district, since in the past I'd heard these scores were not very relevant (that's when they looked bad). Shawn said, "If I was making a decision where to live I'd look very carefully at the relative school ranking." Meaning what? Well, there are two kinds of scores, Statewide and Similar Schools. "Statewide" means how the school did compared to all schools in the state. "Similar Schools" means how the school did compared with... oh, you know. So, why would he look at that score if buying a house? Because if you are buying into an area, unless it's some ritzy area like San Marino, it's not very reasonable to assume that you will get the best schools in the state. But it is reasonable to see that the schools in that community compare well with schools in similar communities.

COMMENDED ~ Anyway, Shawn said schools and teachers and just about everybody was to be commended for the improvement. "Heck," he said, "I'm to be commended." I agree, and I appreciate his candor. I think he's one of the best hires the district has made. Now the scores weren't perfect - except for Mayflower's, which bounced up to 10, which is as high as you can go in the Similar Schools ranking - but overall they look positive. The only down number was for Bradoaks, which slipped from 8 to 7 in the Similar Schools ranking. Santa Fe, Shawn said, though it did not make its API goal, was up a bit in its Similar Schools ranking, which suggests that the similar schools it is being compared to had a rough time too.

DETAILS ~ So, here are the API Statewide and Similar Schools rankings broken down by school. The first number is the rank for 2000, the second for 2001, and the third for 2002. (The 2000 stuff is from last year's newsletter, which hopefully is accurate. You can never tell with me.) The scale is one-to-ten for both the Statewide and Similar Schools ranks. High rank is 10.

Bradoaks
Statewide: 4, 5, 5
Similar Schools: 2, 8, 7 (Oops, slipping)

Mayflower
Statewide: 7, 7, 8
Similar Schools: 7, 8, 10 (Wow!)

Monroe
Statewide: 4, 5, 6
Similar Schools: 4, 4, 7 (Nice!)

Plymouth
Statewide: 3, 4, 5
Similar Schools: 1, 3, 5 (Cool!)

Wild Rose
Statewide: 4, 4, 4
Similar Schools: 4, 3, 4

Clifton
Statewide: 6, 6, 6
Similar Schools: 8, 7, 7

Santa Fe
Statewide: 5, 4, 4
Similar Schools: 7, 6, 7

Monrovia High
Statewide: 4, 5, 5
Similar Schools: 5, 5, 7 (Good!)

THE GOAL ~ A recent article in the Star-News focused on the number of schools that have met the final API goal of 800. I thought it was interesting and kind of encouraging that there are enough schools around that have made that goal that this becomes worthy of an article. Of all the local districts, according to the data accompanying the article, only Duarte, Garvey, Rosemead and (sigh) Monrovia don't have any schools that have made the goal. Hmm? What about Pasadena? Well, I know it's hard to believe, but even Pasadena had one school (Don Benito) that has made it. But on the hopeful side, Mayflower School, at 786, is a mere 14 points away from the goal. Spitting distance. Wait till next year.

CUTS ~ You knew some cuts were coming. Chief Business Officer Linda Dempsey presented a report outlining nearly $600,000 of cuts from the budget, some of which is just switching funding from source to source. I don't quite get it, but I suppose that's cutting. The more substantive cuts appear to be school-supply budgets, not filling an unnamed position at the high school, and savings from what I think are delays in filling a few positions.

DISAPPOINTMENT ~ Now, what is it that disappointed me? Well, I saw on the agenda that there would be a study session immediately following the board meeting. That's unusual since all the study sessions I'd ever heard about are before the main meeting. So anyway, I thought, Wow! What would be more natural than to just keep sitting in their chairs and hold the study session right smack out in public (such as it is)? I actually thought it was going to happen. But they adjourned to the back room. Actually, though, I shouldn't be petty. This is progress. Even if it isn't out in the main room the way I had hoped, it was announced right there so that anybody in the audience could know it was about to happen and could traipse into the back room with them. So, not all I wanted, but maybe a step. We'll see.

ESSAY ~ I'm going to paraphrase this letter a lot to ensure anonymity: A parent writes to say that her child at Mayflower school is getting a good education, but her middle school student complains of papers being corrected by other students, even essays. This, she says, is "WRONG WRONG WRONG." She writes, "Sometimes you just want to scream!" She says she's thinking of private schools, but her daughter wants to stay with her friends and, "I am a strong believer in staying with the community and trying to improve it!"

ANOTHER ~ Here's a similar one: "A teacher at [a Monrovia middle school] doesn't look at kids' rough draft until the third time around. So, my daughter writes first draft. She shares it with the student next to her. Student next to her brackets a big paragraph and puts 'delet'. Hmm...delet. Then she adds a punctuation mark. Her paper was disjointed and all over the place. She didn't have a good body to support her opening sentence. Isn't this something the child should know from the get go? Today she wrote the second draft. Still having major structural problems. However, teacher won't see this paper - which is due tomorrow - either. It goes to someone else. What I'm saying is: The kid needs help that can come from only the teacher."

EIGHT WEEKS ~ And more from the previous correspondent: "Did you know that [a teacher] gives quizzes and hands them back eight weeks later? So, I find out eight weeks later my daughter didn't get the concepts."

OUTSTANDING FOLKS ~ The Chamber of Commerce and School Board recognized four employees for outstanding service: Mario Tyler, custodian at Clifton Middle School ("prompt, professional and a great attitude"); Stella Shepard, senior account clerk at Monrovia High ("Wonderful sense of humor. Always willing to help even if her pile of paperwork is huge."); Elizabeth "Buffy" Daignault, teacher at Clifton ("expert in mathematics, believes in quality instruction"); Pauline Mariscal, teacher at Monrovia High ("Constantly calls and writes home, much to the chagrin of her students.").

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive.

Copyright (c) 2003, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web at http://www.sacklunch.net/MonroviaSchoolLink