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Galt schools see big jumps in academic performance

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Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 8:18 am, Fri May 13, 2011.

Galt schools saw unprecedented jumps in their similar-school academic performance rankings released last week.

Elementary school district Superintendent Karen Schauer summed up the improvement with one word: "Wow."

The similar-school index rank is thought by many educators to be an especially useful benchmark because it is intended, in terms of student demographics, to compare apples to apples.

Galt's scores moved up in dramatic fashion across the board.

"When I look at the statewide and similar school rankings for our schools, I look for improvement trends," Schauer said of the results from the state Department of Education. "I think the similar-schools ranking is helpful because it ranks schools based upon similar demographics from socio-economic to English learners."

She noted the striking four-point leap made by McCaffrey Middle School students from 5 to 9. Another standout was River Oaks Elementary, which improved from 9 to 10 — landing the school in the top 10 percent of comparable schools statewide.

"Our staff sets high expectations for our students and they proved to us they can meet them," Principal Lois Yount said, crediting building positive relationships with all students and parents as the school's greatest success.

"As grade-level teams, (teachers) carefully analyze the results of district assessments and make instructional decisions based on data. We have a highly trained staff of instructional assistants that work closely with teachers in all classrooms to meet the needs of our students through small group instruction," Yount said.

When comparing its current similar school rankings to last year's, every school in the Galt elementary district earned a higher ranking.

"I am proud of (district) efforts that demonstrate employee commitment to all students learning through collaboration and continuous improvement," Schauer said in an email.

She points to the district-wide attention to quality and engaging classroom instruction as making the difference.

The Great First Teaching model emphasizes high-quality classroom instruction and uses so-called master teachers as coaches to provide feedback or demonstrate lessons for their peers.

Last month, McCaffrey was one of just 97 schools named a California Distinguished School, and this model may have made the difference.

Among the criteria that goes into being chosen is making significant progress in closing the academic achievement gap. Applicants were also identified by their success in narrowing the achievement gap that exists between higherand lower-performing students.

Judy Bullard, who oversees the district's curriculum department, said that when teachers check for understanding, they are paying close attention to who is learning the objective and who is not.

"Teachers make decisions on the spot to reteach and clarify what is misunderstood rather than waiting for the end-of-the unit test to find out children did not learn the standards taught," she said of each school's on-going success. "Curriculum coaches have provided support in High Quality First Instruction that stresses constant checking for understanding at each stage of the lesson."

In Lodi Unified, five schools earned a 10, though none of them are traditional neighborhood schools. They include Middle College High School, Elkhorn School, Aspire River Oaks Academy, Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy and Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy.

For other Lodi Unified schools, the results are less heartening when comparing last year's base API scores to this year's. Most Lodi schools showed moderate or no progress, though Ellerth Larson Elementary moved from a rating of 2 to 5, and Lodi High from a 4 to a 6.

Contact report Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews. com.

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