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A School Year in Review: Camino Nuevo Charter Academy June 24, 2015

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Common Standards, Principal Effectiveness, School Year in Review.
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By Heather McManus, Principal, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy

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As another school year winds down, educators throughout California will reflect on the last 10 months of student progress, overall growth toward goals, and how we have changed as individuals and professionals. This year’s evolution was memorable for us at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy (CNCA) as well as at many other schools across California.

This school year brought with it many celebrations and challenges. Wrapping up a $36 million construction project that was delayed for nearly a year, we packed up 15 years’ worth of school memories and moved into Belmont High School to experience a co-location. Co-location, also known as “Prop 39,” pairs up public charter schools with local public district schools that are under-enrolled to share the space and school facilities.

Co-location can be challenging for all parties involved. Due to the expensive nature of land and real estate in California, Prop 39 remains an important option for many public charter schools in underserved neighborhoods. This year, the California Supreme Court impacted the law’s implementation in some school districts. In April, the Court ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had been violating Prop 39 and required LAUSD to make changes to ensure that its methods of allocating classrooms to all schools are lawful.

CaminoNuevo_Pic2The past year also brought an influx of revenue directed toward public schools and a new state funding mechanism: the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this revolutionary model, schools receive a base amount of money, and those that serve a majority of students who live in poverty, are English language learners, or are foster youth receive a concentration and supplemental grant above the base amount. Historically, schools in the most needy areas operate on fewer dollars than schools in more affluent areas because they are funded by community tax dollars.

With the implementation of LCFF, schools are held accountable by creating a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). At Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, parents, staff, and students participated in budget meetings, surveys, and presentations related to the eight state priorities and CNCA-specific priorities. Our plan prioritized, among other things, providing mental health services, interventions for struggling students, and a well-rounded education. As the year winds down, schools are measuring progress toward the goals outlined in the accountability plan and writing updated versions of their plan for next year.

CaminoNuevo_pic5Finally, this school year saw the first full-year implementation of the new California Common Core State Standards. These standards require schools to dramatically shift classroom instruction. This spring, students throughout the state engaged in the first round of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. At CNCA, students in grades 3–8 took four assessments over eight days and a total of 16 hours. They had to successfully navigate the new technology testing platform as well as more rigorous standards. While California will not use this year’s results in calculating the state’s accountability tool, the Academic Performance Index, at CNCA we are anxiously awaiting our scores to help us push our work forward.

In these final few days of the school year, we’re working to close it out while moving swiftly toward the next. We are already planning and hiring for 2015–2016 and look forward to continuing to provide students with an excellent education.

Here’s to a great school year and a restful summer!

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Creating a Climate of Possibility for Latino Youth February 19, 2014

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Common Standards, Principal Effectiveness.
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By Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, Assistant Principal, Glendale Middle School, NILSL Fellow, NCLR

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I recently watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on school leadership for the fourth time. Each time I understand more deeply and clearly the role of a school leader. Robinson says the “real role of leadership” is to create a climate of possibility. As I reflect on student populations like the one at the school where I am a leader, there has not been a climate of possibility for most students for many years. Our diverse population of refugees, children of refugees, new immigrants, children of new immigrants, English learners, and generations of under-served students need us to create that climate of possibility.

Our students need schools that provide an education that is individualized and personalized. At Glendale Middle School in Salt Lake City we work to create varied personalized programs or projects that “hook” our students to their learning so that they can see the purpose and possibility. What is more culturally relevant for a student than working on a project to improve one’s own community or making a movie about a current issue at school?

School leaders must also create a climate of possibility for their teachers. Students have been conditioned into believing that they cannot achieve at high academic levels, as have many teachers. They too believe that their students are not able to achieve at high academic levels. If teachers and students alike do not believe it is possible, then it is not possible. Our job is to create a system to support teachers to know what is possible and to develop the heart, the will and the skill to make the change necessary for our Latino students and English learners to achieve at high levels.

In addition to creating a climate of possibility is the necessity to create a well run system that insists on high quality instruction and assessment, and the use of data to drive instruction, intervention and professional development. The Common Core State Standards are a rigorous tool to focus teachers and students on high expectations. Forbes Magazine’s list of The Eight Characteristics of Effective School Leaders mirrors what is possible and what our students need: high expectations, relentlessness, personal development of every student, rich opportunity within and out of the classroom, partnerships with parents and the community, and rigorous data analysis.

As we continue the work to create climates of possibilities for our students and teachers we may find ourselves achieving things we never would have expected.

Common Core and the Productive Struggle: Paving the Way for Latino Students April 4, 2013

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Common Standards, Principal Effectiveness.
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By Ingrid Anderson, Instructional Leadership Coach-PUC Schools, Los Angeles, CA

According to the 2010 census, the Latino population had a 37 percent increase since 2000, boasting the largest growth of any ethnic group. In support of social justice in our country, Latino students deserve equal access to the college and career of their choice. However, only 56 percent of Latino students graduate from high school on time compared to 77% of their White peers. By uniting together in an effort to tackle this challenge, states are adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a way to set the bar high for all. The CCSS is an exciting opportunity for all Latino students to be held to high expectations and have access to the educational resources and support they deserve. Across the nation, school districts and charter management organizations are analyzing how the adoption of CCSS will demand significant shifts in the way teachers think about, design and deliver instruction to students. At Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) in Los Angeles, they are working together to embrace this transition.

In the awareness phase of the Common Core transition, PUC Schools have engaged in a few key actions on the road to full implementation in 2014-2015.  (more…)