A team of educators from the Sacramento County Office of Education will stick like glue to Galt High School as they attempt to improve test scores and prevent the school from being taken over by the state.
The team, led by Bill Palmer, former curriculum director in the Lodi Unified School District, will conduct what Palmer describes as an "academic audit" of Galt High's curriculum. The primary focus will be on freshman and sophomore English and math classes.
Galt High was recently classified a "state monitored school" for its failure to improve its Academic Performance Index by at least one point during each of the last two years, Palmer told trustees Tuesday.
During the next two months, the Sacramento County Office of Education team that Palmer heads will conduct the "audit" and make straightforward recommendations, probably in February, on what tasks the school needs to accomplish, when the work needs to be done and which individual will be held accountable, Palmer said.
The Office of Education team will focus on nine specific areas in its audit. For example, the team will check if students are using state-approved textbooks, but they will not take the school officials' word for it.
If a teacher or administrator says they are using proper textbooks, Palmer will ask for the receipt to prove it, he said after leaving the board meeting. Or he will need to see them on students' desks in the classroom.
As part of the program, which will take effect after the recommendations are made, Palmer's team will:
• Train the principal and vice principals on freshman and sophomore English and math so that they can train the teachers.
• Train teachers on state academic standards.
• Require 40 hours of intensive teacher training on state materials, probably next summer.
• Make sure students can read.
"We do not want to graduate people who can't read and aren't able to learn," Palmer said.
"I think this will give us the structure that we need," said trustee Sue Roberts.
Two students, Jocelyn Hoff and Andrea Tingesdahl, attended the board meeting interested in the state's intervention.
"I think it's really bad for the students," said Hoff, a senior. "Some teachers are saying that colleges won't accept us if we're a state school."
Tingesdahl, also a senior, said that Galt High suffers because some students merely pick answers at random on the Academic Performance Index tests.
"I think the school is doing a good job," Hoff said. "Some of the students don't care."
Newly elected school board President Pat Maple said after the meeting adjourned that he likes Palmer's use of the term "academic audit."
Maple said he has full confidence that new Superintendent Christine Hoffman will turn the school around.
"I think this is going to be our academic savior," Maple said of Hoffman.
Bob Rappleye, Galt High's math department chairman until 2000, said one of the problems Galt High has faced is the high turnover of teachers.
"There's a lot of new people," Rappleye said. "It takes time."
Maple said that Galt High has hired 60 teachers over a three-year period.
"As a teacher, it's embarrassing," Rappleye said.
State grants will provide an additional $100,000 to hire the Sacramento County Office of Education and $150 per student to put recommended changes into effect.
This story was updated at 12:35 p.m. Dec. 11, 2003, to correct the year until which Bob Rappleye was Galt High math department chairman.