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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 64 ~ August 27, 2003

Well, tonight there was the briefest report about the AYP scores. A longer report will be coming up. But one thing is clear, Santa Fe Middle School is on the edge of some serious trouble. And even excluding Santa Fe, some of the scores are just terrible. I mean, there were lots of schools where only 30-40 percent of the students know what they're supposed to know. Discouraging.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

VERY BRIEF ~ Associate Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn will give a full report on the AYP scores on September 10, but tonight he gave the briefest overview. He said none of the schools have been placed in "program improvement" (I think that's what I describe below in my blurb about Roy Romer) but that "Santa Fe is at great risk for that, and we'll be looking at that very carefully." Thank you for saying that plainly. About the scores, Monrovian Cyrus Kemp said some comments Shawn apparently made in a newspaper interview were "excuses." He said, "I don't feel test results like these should have excuses. There are no excuses. It's like, 'The dog ate my homework.' That's not acceptable." More on the results below.

HELPFUL ~ Shawn also said he met with Rosemary Harrahill, who spoke at the last meeting about a rotten experience her daughter had at Clifton Middle School (see the last issue). He said it was a "very helpful conversation." Shawn said he also met with the new principal at Clifton about the problem and he said something I didn't follow about working on some policy changes that could take a year to implement. Shawn said he'll talk anybody who wants to talk to him about problems they have encountered. Superintendent Louise Taylor also added that "my door is open." They both, however, encouraged parents to talk to the teacher and principal first.

FOCUSED ~ Board President Frances Cash reported that in the study session this evening there was a "lively discussion" on the community campaign the board is planning. She said the board is thinking about some sort of parent training at the schools. Okay! Now they're getting somewhere. I'm not sure exactly what is involved in this parental training, but it sounds a lot more focused than what I heard when I attended a study session.

FAIR GAME ~ Cyrus Kemp said, "I don't think it is the board's place to tell people they can't address the board on personnel issues or instructional materials. While you may not care for it," he said, "speaking in a public venue may get results. It stinks that you can't address what you want." Kemp must have caught something I missed as I wasn't aware there were rules against speaking about certain things (maybe because I never speak) but I certainly agree with him that commenting on instructional materials - at least - should be fair game. And whether it's fair or not, I think it is permissable under the First Ammendment.

AGENDA ~ Kemp also took issue with a comment by Superintendent Louise Taylor, again, apparently in a newspaper. From Kemp's remarks it sounds as if she said something about it being good for board members not to have an "agenda." Kemp said that was backwards. "We don't need another one, two or three rubber stamps. We need people with an agenda. Everybody on the board needs to have an agenda. If you don't have an agenda you should turn in your resignation. You need to be passionate." I can't vouch for what Taylor said since I didn't read the article, but I agree with Kemp's observation; I want board members with an agenda, who know what they want to accomplish and set out to do it. For me, wishy-washy doesn't make it.

SNACK BAR ~ School Board candidate Ed Gililand, who is also chairman of a committee to get a new rest room and snack bar at Monrovia High, said that several contractors have agreed to help build the structure, but now, he said, "We need an architect." If you are one and would like to volunteer, you can call him at 359-2197 or write him at P.O. Box 1983, Monrovia, CA 91016.

TRANSITION ~ Okay, the rest of this newsletter will focus on the AYP scores. This is stuff I read on line or in the newspapers. It didn't happen at tonight's meeting.

MOST ANNOYING ~ Regarding the latest school test results, one of the most annoying comments I read (which, thankfully, has nothing to do with Monrovia) came from LA Unified Superintendent Roy Romer, who said that it is unfair to "punish people when you set standards they can't possibly make." Sounds reasonable enough, but what is this "punishment" for repeatedly failing to meet goals? Well, the district has to allow students to transfer to other campuses or offer students outside tutoring. Sounds like a reward to me. Perhaps Romer would prefer students continue to be locked into failing schools? For Pete's sake! It's about educating kids, not about financial security for failing schools.

AYP ~ I looked at the Adequate Yearly Progress report in the Star-News and with one exception, we made our goals, so I'm glad for that. But on the other hand, some of our numbers seem awfully low. I grant that some other districts also have low scores, but it's hard to believe that - in many cases - only 30-40 percent of our students are proficient in English and Math.

On average, my three city comparison (Duarte, Monrovia and Arcadia) comes out the way you might suspect for the elementary and middle school levels. Duarte is at the bottom, Monrovia in the middle, and Arcadia, of course, is on top - WAY on top. It's so far on top that Arcadia's worst scoring school (First Avenue, 64.2 for English, 68.2 Math) handily beats out Monrovia's best scoring school (Mayflower, 56.2 for English, 56.7 Math).

However, Monrovia did no worse than Arcadia in having schools fail to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress objectives. Monrovia and Arcadia both had one school fail. Duarte had three fail.

One major disappointment is Santa Fe Middle School, which, of all the Arcadia, Monrovia and Duarte schools - not just the middle schools, but ALL the schools - had the worst percentage proficient in Math: 17.4 percent. It is also the only school in Monrovia not to meet its Adequate Yearly Progress objectives.

At the high school level, Duarte High actually beats Monrovia High in English (47.6 percent proficient vs. 42.9 percent for Monrovia), and in Math Monrovia only beats Duarte High by three tenths of a percent (33.6 percent for Monrovia, 33.3 percent for Duarte). So, just from the data here, you could argue that Duarte High is just as good as (or better than) Monrovia High.

Here are the numbers school by school:

ELEMENTARY English Math
Wild Rose....31.4....40.0
Mayflower....56.2....56.7
Monroe.......38.3....41.2
Plymouth.....36.8....44.8
Bradoaks.....35.6....50.0

MIDDLE
Clifton......37.1....36.0
Santa Fe.....28.4....17.4

HIGH
Monrovia.....42.9....33.6

DISTRICT AVERAGES
Arcadia......71.9....76.7
Duarte.......33.0....37.2
Monrovia.....38.3....40.0

OOPS ~ One of the things I had always believed is that Monrovia, economically, is between Duarte and Arcadia. I still think that, but a few things have given me pause. First, I noticed on the state's STARS Web site that the percentage of "socioeconomically disadvantaged" students for Monrovia High is actually higher than for Duarte High, 29 percent to 24 percent. That struck me as a bit odd, so I checked the 2000 Census and found that, as I suspected, per capita income is indeed higher in Monrovia ($21,686 vs. $19,648 for Duarte) but that the poverty level in Monrovia is also a bit higher (9.7 percent vs. 8.4 percent in Duarte). So, I have to admit that while Monrovia may be "between" Duarte and Arcadia, it isn't smack in the middle; it's economically a lot more like Duarte than I realized. I still feel that the test results are poor, but I need to apologize for giving the impression - just based on the economics of the two cities - that Monrovia schools should be doing a lot better than Duarte's. They should both be doing better.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular Monrovia school board meeting is on September 10 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