Students and School Board members both need to be held to accountability. That seemed to be the theme of Culver City School Board meeting Tuesday night
Assistant Superintendent Gwenis Laura gave a presentation on the tests used for district-wide accountability. The seemingly complicated system (it contained a lot of acronyms, defined in a glossary in the agenda booklet) includes three “high-stakes” test sections. The STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) group, includes CST (California Standard Tests), CMA (California Modified Assessment), and CAPA(California Alternative Performance Assessment for students with disabilities).
The other sections are CAHSEE (the California High School Exit Exam), and CELDT (California English Learners Development Test). Indexes of accountability include the API (Academic Performance Index, a state system), AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress, the Federal system), and AMAO (Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives).
Got all that? Laura went on to present a series of charts with statistics on Culver City schools’ academic performances over the last two years. On the API chart, where the state’s goal for schools is a score of 800 or above, all schools except for Linwood Howe met the school-wide growth target for 2009, while the middle and high schools did not meet targets in some subgroup areas. On the AYP, all schools and all subgroups are meeting the 45 per cent yearly growth target. With the AMAOs, only the English Learners subgroup achieved less than the 45 per cent target.
Laura said that there will be more reports at future School Board meetings in which the achievements of specific groups (such as students with disabilities) will be discussed.
The Board praised Laura’s presentation, but Board member Steven Gourley wondered out loud about the tests “overburdening the schools and wasting money where it could be used to teach.”
The long-deferred issue of Board member financial accountability was finally addressed, as Assistant Superintendent David El Fattal presented a chart of the Board’s compensation and expenditures from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. The chart showed each Board member’s stipend, benefits, and what were termed “other expenditures.”
That last category caused some head-scratching, because some Board members had attended a conference out of town and required “reimbursement” for travel expenses. Apart from those costs, however, there seemed to be no other “other expenditures.” It was suggested by Board member Dr. Dana Russell that the term “other expenditures” should simply be changed to “reimbursements.”
This segued into a first reading of a revised Board bylaw on Remuneration, Reimbursement, and Other Benefits. Here, it was eventually decided, after some discussion and public input, to have reports on benefits and other compensation reported to the public on a monthly basis, rather than on an annual basis.
During Public Comment, several Middle School students and one parent weighed in on the problem of students carrying heavy textbooks around all day due to a lack of lockers as well as a lack of in-classroom textbooks.
Ariel Singer, an eighth grader, noted that the District’s inability to purchase classroom copies of algebra and geometry textbooks means that students are burdened by carrying their home copies back and forth. With another girl, she gave a visual demonstration of how the students must carry: a huge math book, a math binder, a regular binder, and a backpack.
Another student mentioned that students who must carry books to and from school are more likely to lose them (which is an expense to the District) and that ultimately, back pain from carrying books will affect the students’ future health. Above all, she added, the book-carrying burden “associates math with discomfort” which drew sympathetic laughter and applause.
Board members seemed to agree that this problem should be addressed. Dr. Russell suggested that students use “rolling backpacks” even if they seem “uncool.” The Board also took notice of Scott Zeidman’s report that some schools were “running out of food” for school lunches.
Finally, the Board approved a resolution that the Governing Board of the Culver City School District support Measure EE.