Healdsburg Unified School District

Healdsburg High School and Marce Becerra Academy both have new and robust plans for student achievement. The plans include working on improving keyboarding and tech skills, utilizing benchmarking tests to track student progress and implementing a campus-wide focus on math.

At a Dec. 18 Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, Healdsburg High School Principal Bill Halliday presented the board with the high school’s five-point plan as well as a three-point plan for Marce Becerra Academy.

The School Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) consolidates school-level planning efforts into one main plan for programs funded by the plan’s consolidated application. 

According to the school board agenda packet, the SPSA includes goals to improve student outcomes with evidence-based strategies and actions and an outline of associated proposed expenditures.

High school plan

1) Closing the achievement gap

The first goal involved increased “support and interventions for critical subgroups with an achievement gap.” Subgroups include Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged and special education students.

“We are consistently looking at our gaps and we are consistently looking at improving our programs to address these gaps, including improving our English Language Development program, we have advisors supporting our English learning students and we are in continued review of our Individualized Education Program (IEP) process,” Halliday explained.

He added that they are also working on increasing diversity in AP classes and in student leadership roles as another way to close the gap.

2) Focus on math

Working on encouraging a school-wide focus on math is the main focus of this goal, as well as making sure help is available to students who may need extra aid in math.

Halliday said they have several different tiers of after school support such as after school tutorial. 

As far as the math mindset Halliday said, “We are following along with our consultant, Jo Boaler, really on a school-wide focus on math, and working on a school-wide mathematical mindset where we decrease the number of adults who say, ‘I am not a math person,’ and increase the number of students who say, ‘I am a math person.’”

3) Benchmarks

Benchmark tests are an important aspect of a teacher’s toolbox since tests are able to track a student’s progress and evaluate where their skills are and where they may need extra help. The third goal as part of the high school’s plan for student achievement is to “create, implement and evaluate benchmark and other assessments to better inform teaching practices and chart students progress.”

“We currently have benchmarks (tests) in all of our English classes, four benchmarks a year,” Halliday said. “Ideally we’ll go through a year without a fire because it is a disruption. We also have three to four benchmarks in math … and an immense amount of data collection in P.E.”

Halliday said establishing more benchmark tests in science and social studies is a work in progress since the high school has standalone science and social studies teachers.

4) Technology

“Goal number four is really that our classrooms look, act and feel like innovative organizations in the real world,” Halliday said.

The fourth goal for the high school is to continue to prepare students for society in the 21st century. This includes a focused use on technology and problem solving, as well as developing common tech expectations for students in grades 9 to 12.

Halliday added that teachers have voiced that students need to work on their tech keyboarding skills. 

“Something that is new for this for our goal, is that an increased number of our staff members really feel that we need to incorporate specific tech skills in keyboarding,” he said.

Trustees asked if there was a plan to support technology curriculum since a lot of the standardized and benchmark tests like the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress are computer-based.

Healdsburg Unified School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Erin Fender, said the district does have technology and information literacy standards.

“Three years ago this board passed the HUSD technology and information literacy standards and three years ago it was a much bigger process and we looked to what materials and standards we’d been using,” Fender said. 

She said the district has been using learning.com to administer a 21st century skills assessment with a pre- and post-test. 

“It is lengthy. There is a lot going on in that software, it is almost too rich of a piece of curriculum, but I feel like we got the standards and we got a nice curricular resource,” she said, noting that working on this standard is really about having enough time in the day to do so. 

5) School culture

Goal five is about improving school culture as well as parent and student engagement.

“With culture … we started the year with an activity day for all students to make sure the students feel welcome and feel like they have a passion outside of class,” Halliday said. 

He said there has been an increase in student participation in activity groups and in athletics.

He added that the school will also continue to have parent and community meetings as well as the traditional parent nights and an eighth grade parent night.

Plan for Marce Becerra Academy

“Students who go to Marce Becerra are credit deficient and the goal will be and always has been to earn credits, make up for classes and increase graduation (rates),” Halliday said. “I can come here for 10 years and that goal will never change.” 

The SPSA plan for the Marce Becerra academy consists of three goals.

1) Students should have full access to highly qualified teachers, technology and standards aligned to curriculum that prepares them for college, career and life.

2) Increase student and parent engagement and decrease truancy rate, chronic absenteeism and dropout rate along with expulsion and suspension rates.

3) Have students develop experience in K-12 career development and annually update their college and career plan to reflect their needs and interests. 

Halliday said of the third goal, “It is really about the development of our ‘big picture’ model,” where students work on a course of study that includes internship or work activities in a field that they are interested in pursuing.

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