UPDATE: CUSD Misses Academic Goals Again

Like most other Orange County school districts, Capo Unified fell short of standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act. A letter to parents offered confusing statements on whether students met English and math goals.

Clarification: Although the second paragraph in Capo Unified's letter to parents mistakenly claimed students surpassed federal performance goals in English and math, the first paragraph of the letter indicates otherwise. It says:

The purpose of this letter is to inform you that CUSD has been identified for Program Improvement Year 3 according to the criteria of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This legislation supports Capistrano Unified School District's efforts to provide a strong standards-based educational program for all students. ESEA/NCLB identifies those districts that receive funds under ESEA/NCLB, Title 1 Part A, as Program Improvement (PI) districts after two consecutive years of not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) within specific areas and subgroups. California determines AYP by considering the percentage of students scoring at the "proficient" or "advanced" level on the California Standards Tests for English-language arts and mathematics and the Academic Performance Index (API).

Original story, headlined "CUSD Officials' Math a Little Fuzzy," updated Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.:

Maybe it’s the new math?

Last week, parents in the Capistrano Unified School District received a letter offering confusing information on whether CUSD students met state proficiency targets in English and math.

One portion of the letter reads: “Seventy-six percent of the students tested were proficient or advanced in English-language arts and 74.8 percent were proficient or advanced in math, surpassing the state academic proficiency targets of 78 percent (English-language arts) and 78.2 percent (math).”

When Patch asked how scores of 76 percent and 74.8 percent could "surpass" goals of 78 percent, school district spokesman Marcus Walton said: “There was a mistake in the initial letter sent to parents. As the numbers indicate, the district did not surpass the proficiency targets this year."

A corrected version of the letter was posted Wednesday on the school district’s website, saying 76 percent and 74.8 percent were “near” the state’s targets.

The purpose of the letter was to inform parents that Capo Unified is in its third year of “program improvement,” a euphemistic label for failing to meet academic achievement goals set by the government. Most other Orange County school districts are also on program improvement.

CUSD was first labeled a program improvement district in 2010 for not meeting standards of the No Child Left Behind law, which requires all students to be at least proficient in English and math by 2014, according to the district

Specifically, the district’s English learners and disabled students didn't meet their targets in 2010. The same is true this year, according to the state Department of Education.

The numbers show that several subgroups did not meet their “adequate yearly progress” goals, including:

  • African-Americans
  • Latinos
  • American Indians or Native Alaskans (math only)
  • Poor students
  • English learners
  • Disabled students

School districts placed on program improvement must take steps to reverse the situation. The district plan to achieve its targets can be found here.

Twenty-two of Orange County’s 28 school districts are on program improvement. A school district exits program improvement when it meets its goals for all subgroups for two consecutive years, according to the Orange County Department of Education.

fact checker November 02, 2012 at 01:45 AM
There are many job related issues that they deal with every day besides contract negotiations. Negotiations are driven by labor laws which are strictly enforced. Why don't you contact the district to ask about the job descriptions of these people. I am sure they are available as part of public record. This would seem to be the first step before you file complaints.
Dawn Urbanek November 02, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Fact Checker- Thank you for that advise- I am going to ask for a job description for Vicki and Rhonda. Would I send that to the District or to CUEA and/or CSEA or all three? Your comment "Negotiations are driven by labor laws which are strictly enforced." The reason for filing a complaint- is that there is a substantial amount of written documentation that gives rise to a legal question as to whether or not Disclosure Laws were followed. You are correct- statutes tell you when labor negotiations can start and stop. I have e-mails from OCDE which show that labor negotiations were continuous and ongoing which is while I filed a complaint.
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 02:36 AM
You're welcome. Contact whoever you think might have the information. I am satisfied with the jobs done by the people you mention. I am also confident that they are doing their jobs within the law. There are plenty of oversights to make sure of it.
Dawn Urbanek November 02, 2012 at 04:45 AM
In Response to Fact Checker- Easy for you to say when you are not the person facing "Criminal Liability".
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Yeparoo November 02, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Thank you for the info. I think it would be helpful for the district to explain what areas the scores are failing to meet the standards. Did they have a sudden influx of Native American students that only speak Apache or Eskimos that only speak Inuit or Aluet? Or are the low scores because of a terrific program for Disabled Students that has attracted students into the district and they haven't had enough time to help those kids along? I'm sure within the many categories listed, their is something the district can say to put the numbers into perspective. After all, CUSD is a gold medal winner of the Daily Beast list of best schools, despite the dubious status as a "Program Improvement" district.
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Joanna, I didn't see any reference to tenure in the link you provided. Are you confusing tenure with job evaluations (and I say this in earnest, no judgement intended)? I agree that Finland is a system that is working very well and has every element that, if implemented here, would have nothing but positive results.
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Here is a link that describes the Finnish educational philosophy in depth. It is a long article but full of food for thought. Finland has a long tradition of strong teacher unions who are part of education policy decisions because it is the teachers who are the experts on what their students need, not the legislators. They treat every student the same but realize that some students need more intervention than others and provide whatever is needed for their success. They are confused by the U.S. dependence on standardized tests to measure the success of their schools.
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Oops, here is the link http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=5&device=ipad
fact checker November 02, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Mominsjc, the API results were just released. When would you like the district to inform parents?
Joanna Clark November 02, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Fact Checker, the link you provided takes you to the last page. Here is the link to page 1 - http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html It's a great article. If you go to the Education Nation web site, you will find some excellent videos about the Finnish school system. We can learn a great deal. Here, also, is a link to a Denver newspaper article on Colorado's new "tenure" law. http://www.skyhidailynews.com/article/20100614/NEWS/100619968 "The new law requires teachers to be evaluated annually, with at least half of their rating based on whether their students progressed during the school year. Beginning teachers will have to show they've boosted student achievement for three straight years to earn tenure. "Teachers could lose tenure if their students don't show progress for two consecutive years. That won't be a possibility until 2015, however, because lawmakers slowed down the process under political pressure from the teachers' union. Teachers can appeal dismissal all the way to the state Supreme Court, and school districts have the burden of proving why they should be terminated. "Under the old system, teachers simply had to work for three years to gain tenure, the typical wait around the country."
shelly November 02, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Penny, Are you sure it is Brea-Olinda. Their test scores for Enlgish learner fell by 103 points (below our API for the same category) and their socio-economic disadvantage students API decreased by 34 points and their scores were below ours for that category also. And the scores for Black and African American student and American Indian and Alaska Native fell. If you look at CUSD API scores they improved in all categories except Black and African American which went from 814 to 811 and American Indian and Alaska Native which went from 855 to 846 and students with disabilities which went from 647 to 646. All other categories of students improved their API scores.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 07:39 PM
NCLB (which hopefully will be dismantled) and standardized test are sucking the life out of education in the U.S. Bubble Bubble toil and trouble.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM
http://ayp.cde.ca.gov/reports/Acnt2012/2012AYPco.aspx?cYear=&cSelect=30,ORANGE&cChoice=AYP2012 Brea-Olinda "not in PI"
randy November 02, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Good topic to be discussed. Reform or not, humans evolve their way of learning. From the little red schoolhouse to ?????
Deborah Adams November 03, 2012 at 04:02 PM
"Academically successful" is not necessarily the same for all students, especially our neediest resource kids and Emglish learners. A student with severe autism still takes state tests, and yes, their scores DO affect the school's AYP. Likewise, no matter how many English learners come in during a given school year, they also take the test (in English) and their scores also affect AYP. So many GREAT schools have been labelled as "failing" because of this nonsense, and so much time and money is being WASTED on pursuing this - we cannot afford it. As we churn along toward 100% proficiency (which is statistically impossible), we are also trying to get ready for Common Core, which changes the whole thing. Enough already. Stop punishing good schools, good teachers, and good students with an impossible program and let's get on with what best helps our students learn!
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Not completely true about our English learners. It depends on when they entered the country. My son took the STAR two years ago during his second week of being in this country. The school assured me the tests wouldn't count. He, like other ELs here for only 12 months or less, also took the STS (standards-based testing in Spanish). Those results are not included in the STAR results ever. Students with disabilities may qualify to take the modified version of the test http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sr/participcriteria.asp
shelly November 03, 2012 at 06:49 PM
There is a sub-section for English Learners of 12 months or less and these scores are included unless parent or district request otherwise. "All students in grades 2-11 participate in the STAR Program, including students with disabilities and students who are English learners. However, parents may request in writing to the principal that a student not be tested. Also, the Individual Education Programs (IEPs) of some special education students specify they should not be tested, while other students are eligible for testing accommodations, if those are included in their IEP. All English learners must take the STAR tests in English unless excused by their parents."
Erica Cox November 03, 2012 at 09:47 PM
FC - they knowingly sent out a letter with blantantly false information, in an effort to make their current trustees running for re-election look good. This was no mere typo...
fact checker November 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Joanna, The Finnish system looks at standardized tests as a way to assess students, not teachers. There are too many variables to use them to assess teachers.
fact checker November 03, 2012 at 10:07 PM
What steps would you take to meet the goals set, Mr. Reardon?
fact checker November 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Hardly credible since it was so easy to find the error. The conspiracy theories suggested here make no sense at all. The error was corrected immediately.
shelly November 03, 2012 at 10:45 PM
George Lucas is donating the $4 billion he is receiving from Disney for the Star Wars Franchise to education, “I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education. It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future –- and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt – as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so.”
shelly November 03, 2012 at 10:48 PM
"Don't underestimate the Force. "
Joanna Clark November 03, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Well Fact Checker, whatever the case may be, they must be doing something right when you consider that Finland used to be a virtual unknown. If it was known for anything at all, it would have been that they are the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But, today, Finland has been attracting some very amazing attention via global surveys on quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and their national education system, which has been receiving particular praise. In recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world. The only countries coming anywhere close to challenging their educational superiority are South Korea and Singapore. And their student drop out rate is under two-percent nationally. It is also worth noting that there are no private schools in Finland. This notion may seem difficult for Americans’ to grasp - tuition free higher education. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D. And, perhaps the best part of their system is that there is no tuition. Can you imagine graduating from college and not having any school loans to pay back, because your education was FREE? The bottom line is that we could learn a great deal from the Finns. If only we had the political will.
fact checker November 03, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Joanna, I totally agree.
Debbie Lackie November 04, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Great points, Deborah and Shelly. NCLB is a "one size fits all" model that sets rigid, unrealistic goals for academic gains, ignores the diversity of our children, and contradicts itself by requiring L.E.P. students to score proficient on English exams. It also requires special needs students to demonstrate competency in the same manner as other students. Before anyone gets "livid" I would suggest they do their research on NCLB and its unrealistic demands on schools and teachers. Because of these ridiculous requirements, most schools will end up on program improvement, even schools with very high API scores. This law has made the boosting of test scores the primary goal of schools. Test scores should not be the only way for our students and teachers to show they have been successful. What parents should be livid about is the fact that there are people who believe our children should be bunched into one big number instead of being looked at as individuals. Academic success should be defined differently for every child. Thank you to the many CUSD teachers who take the time to know their students and meet their individual needs.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 05, 2012 at 02:34 PM
A memo clarifying the Oct. 12 mailed letter went out to parents last night (9:40 p.m. Sunday) in the latest issue of the district's weekly email, Capo Talk.
fact checker November 05, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Making an error is one thing. Correcting it and apologizing if it was misleading is the right thing to do. Refusing to acknowledge an error is another thing. The Patch has published erroneous information and corrected it on occasion (haven't seen the apology part). Many posters on these boards have posted misleading and erroneous information. Some have corrected themselves. Many have not.
rbmom November 07, 2012 at 03:46 AM
The modified version calculates as below basic in an API calculation, pulling down a school's overall score. The only exceptions are parents who don't send their kids for testing or students who have been here for less than half the year. Schools with high special Ed populations (even bused in for a special program) are adversely affected.


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