LCAP illustratio

At its meeting on June 26, the high school district board unanimously approved the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, chummily known as the LCAP. Despite its bureaucratic moniker, the LCAP is a useful document, describing the school district’s key goals for students, accompanied by specific actions that the district plans to take to reach those goals.

The goals of the LCAP are created through discussions with teachers, students, parents and administrators, as well as in response to various student tests and surveys. The current LCAP goals (see below in italics in the next section) were first laid out in 2017. Every year for three years, the district is supposed to revisit its LCAP to see how it’s doing at meeting those goals.

Superintendent Toni Beal gave the highlights of the 100-plus-page document in a PowerPoint presentation. The district’s LCAP starts out with a good news/bad news summary.

First the good news — sort of

Goal 1: Improve school physical, social and emotional environment. Beal felt the district had made progress in meeting this goal. She noted that student engagement in leadership opportunities is close to 37%, a 27% increase over two years. She also included the increasing involvement in sports as a marker of progress. Sixty-two percent of boys and 57% of girls participated in interscholastic sports, which is an 8% and 11% increase, respectively.

Goal 2: Improve course access and student success. Beal noted that graduation rates for the district remain higher than those for the state at large. The district has a graduation rate of 91.5%, compared to statewide graduation rate of 83.5% and just 81% for the county.

Presumably because this was the “good news” section of the report, Beal didn’t note that, while still higher than the state and county averages, local graduation rates declined slightly. El Molino has a graduation rate of 94.3%, which is down 2.5% from the previous year. Analy has a graduation rate of 95.2%, which declined 1.2% from the previous year. Laguna, the district’s continuation school, has a graduation rate of 63.6%, which declined 5.8% from the previous year, causing the California Department of Education to list the school as being among the poorest performing schools in the state, primarily because of its graduation rate.

Goal 4: Closing the achievement gap. Beal noted in her presentation that the district’s scores on the SBAC, the statewide standardized test, remained higher than scores for the county at large: English language arts scores for all students were 9.56% higher than the county, while math scores were 11.43% higher. Beal also said that schools within the district continue to expand and add Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathways for students, with 49% of students involved in CTE courses.

But again, this good news masked a troubling decline within the district, which went unstated. At Analy, language arts and math scores both declined: Language Arts scores, while still meeting the state standard, declined 19.9 points, while math scores declined 4.7 points. At El Molino, the English Language Arts score, while still meeting the state standard, declined 11 points, while math scores held steady. Math scores for both Analy and El Molino were both 14 points below what the state considers “meeting the standard.”

Stranger yet, the district’s explanation here doesn’t address the point of this particular goal at all — addressing the achievement gap. (That’s listed below, under the bad news.)

Goal 5: Transition to post-high school success. Under this goal, Beal noted that the dropout rate for the district was only 0.5% compared with a statewide rate of 2.4%. In addition, she noted that of the students taking Advanced Placement exams, 67% scored 3 or higher, which is three percentage points above the statewide number. 

When bad news has a color

The LCAP is intimately tied to school results on the California Education Dashboard. The dashboard combines various tests and surveys that students take during the year, then it gives each school a series of ratings across several areas, ranging from academic subjects like English language arts and mathematics to things like graduation rate, suspension rate and college/career readiness.

As if to extend the automobile metaphor of the dashboard, it uses a “speedometer” with different colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue — to measure how well students at a given school perform. To grossly oversimplify things, scores that fall in red and orange areas are bad, green and blue are good, and yellow is “meh.”

 The dashboard also measures how various ethnic groups and historically disadvantaged groups (socio-economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, foster children) perform in each area. 

In her discussion of the bad news highlights in the LCAP, Beal noted the following:

• The suspension rate is surprisingly high in the district. It’s in the orange range for all students and in the red range for all subcategories, including English language learners, Hispanic, homeless, students with disabilities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. As a percentage of all students, Analy suspends 5.8% at least once during the year, while El Molino suspends 8.4% of students.

• The district also has a serious issue with chronic absenteeism — the score for all students and students with disabilities fell in the orange range.

• The English language arts scores of students with disabilities is significantly below that of the average of all students.

• The college/career readiness indicator is in the orange range for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

• The graduation rate for Hispanics and socio-economically disadvantaged students is in the orange range. At Analy, the graduation rate for whites is 97%, while the graduation rates for Hispanics is 89.6%. While this is significantly higher than the statewide graduation rate for Hispanic students (81%), the Hispanic graduation rate at Analy declined 6% last year, pushing it into the orange range.

THE LCAP AS ROADMAP

The point of the LCAP is not merely to lay out goals and measure the extent of various problems; it is also supposed to provide a roadmap of actions for solving those problems and reaching those goals.

In her presentation, Beal mentioned several actions the district will be taking over the following year that she hopes will address some of the problems mentioned above. The main two are these:

A new discipline system using restorative justice practices

Beal said the district will be using “restorative justice practices” as a part of its discipline system for the first time. Restorative justice practices emphasize repairing the harm caused by bad behavior and rehabilitating offenders through reconciliation with victims and the larger school community. Beal hopes this approach will help lower suspension rates.

Board member Jeanne Fernandes expressed her support for this move.

“I really appreciate the fact that the district is finally going to look into restorative practices,” she said. “Our suspension rate has always been a problem for me, both as a board member and a parent. Kids get suspended; then they just go home and watch TV. Mom and Dad are at work. It’s exactly what these kids want to do.”

She expressed the hope that using a restorative justice approach would help keep kids in school where they belong.

Beal also announced that the district would be revising the schools’ discipline grids — lists of infractions and consequences — and making them uniform throughout the district.

Making a four-year plan

To address the college/career readiness gap and the discrepancies in graduation rates between various groups, Beal said the district will create “four-year plans” for all students in the district.

“We used the College and Career Readiness grant to purchase the Navience program (college and career readiness software) for a number of years and got a commitment from our counselors to see each one of our students every year and develop four-year plans for those students and check in with them once a year to see how they’re doing with their plan,” Beal said.

Find the WSCUHSD LCAP on their website under the Board of Education tab, as an attachment to the June 26 board meeting, Item B, at wscuhsd.k12.ca.us.

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