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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 31 ~ Sept. 25, 2001

I have mixed feelings about a report that came out tonight on this year's summer school. On the one hand, I like that the district is focusing on students who are having problems, and I like that it is compiling statistics on the program's success. On the other hand, what in the world do these statistics mean?
~ Brad Haugaard (

SUMMER INTERVENTION ~ Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn said summer school this year might have better been called the "Summer Intervention Program," because it focused on students who have been having trouble. "As we are being held more accountable for student performance," Joel said, "we are aligning our programs" to meet that objective. Everybody seemed pretty pleased with the results, but for the life of me, I'm not sure why.

EXPECTATIONS ~ Susan Hirsch (I hope I'm spelling that right) presented the meat of the summer school report. She said most of the elementary students (who, remember, were in summer school because they were having problems) either met "expectations" or fell a bit below expectations. (Actually, it's heavy on the "a bit below" side.) But then board Member Monina Diaz asked the key question: What do we mean by "expectations?" The answer was pretty vague. It sounded as if "expectations" might have meant the teachers' expectations, but I couldn't tell. Monina should have pushed for a better answer, but at least she asked.

THE NUMBERS ~ Okay, here are the summer school numbers. I suppose these numbers are good if you have high expectations, but if "expectations" means working at grade level, or something less, they seem pretty bad to me. Look at the number of students who are at "below expectations."

Elementary Reading
17 exceeded expectations
146 met expectations
298 below expectations
90 far below expectations

Elementary Writing
17 exceeded expectations
154 met expectations
286 below expectations
118 far below expectations

Elementary Math
11 exceeded expectations
184 met expectations
251 below expectations
106 far below expectations

UNHELPFUL ~ The middle schools and high schools used a different but equally unhelpful measurement system for summer school. Here are their numbers: ~ Middle schools: 399 passed; 61 failed
~ High schools: 218 passed; 13 failed
Yup. That's it. Granted it is more difficult to break high school and middle school curricula into neat categories, but even measuring just Math and English would have been helpful. And what's this pass/fail baloney? This could mean that 399 middle school students got A's or that 399 middle school students got D-minuses. Highly uninformative.

DIRECTION ~ Lest I be too negative, let me add that I like the direction we're going here - focusing summer school on helping students who are falling behind. Clearly if the middle and upper grades are going to do better (and if you've seen their SAT 9 scores, they obviously need to), then this is a good first step. Also, Joel said he wants to track how the students who went to summer school do during the regular school year. Good idea.

STATS ~ Another thing I liked about the summer school report is that it is a little step away from what I'll call "management by anecdote." A good board of directors may be interested in anecdotes - they help illustrate the numbers - but it should manage by solid data. So, seeing a statistical look at summer school was refreshing, even if it wasn't all I'd like to see.

MAYFLOWER PRINCIPAL ~ Welcome to new Mayflower Principal Jill Selak, who was previously assistant principal at Royal Oak School in the Charter Oak School District. She has been in teaching for 15 years. Board President Roger Graziani said he was "thrilled" to have her, and she said she was "thrilled" to be here. Me? I'm thrilled too.

HONORS ~ Congratulations to Plymouth Instructional Aide, Erin Skidmore, and to Canyon Oaks High School teacher Patricia Edris, who were both honored at the meeting for their service to the district. Skidmore has been an aide for three years, is a graduate of Plymouth (and Santa Fe and Monrovia High), and is studying to be a teacher. Edris, a long-time English teacher at Canyon Oaks, is an "icon" at the school, her co-workers wrote.

RED CROSS ~ Student Board Representative Alex Laushkin said Monrovia High contributed to the Red Cross for relief in New York and Washington D.C., and is planning a blood drive later in the year. Good for them!

LOCKERS ~ Business Director Linda Dempsey revised her estimate of when the district would be able to get lockers in Monrovia High. Probably not early February, she said, but hopefully by late February. What? Oh, 2002.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular meeting is on Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive. But there is a joint board/city council meeting on Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m. if you can't wait. Copyright (c) 2001, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web at: