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Mailbag: District can improve API scores in low-scoring schools

December 24, 2011|By Elizabeth Barnes

As a teacher at Jim Thorpe Fundamental School in Santa Ana, the top scoring Santa Ana Unified School District school with an API of 901, I have some suggestions for the Newport Mesa Unified School District.

There are several components involved in raising API scores, none of which include parent education as discussed in Wednesday's letter to the editor, "Parents' education not a top factor in API."

These components include, but are not limited to:

•Rigorous daily instruction;

•Adjusting academic instruction to the California state standards;

•Intervention pull out for students who are not proficient;

•Scholarly expectations for students who must achieve to their potential;

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•Grade level collaboration and curriculum planning;

•A strong independent reading program, which is demanding and pushes students to read more, using programs like Accelerated Reader;

•Requiring parents to participate in the educational process by signing a contract.

I feel that rigorous daily instruction is the No. 1 key to academic achievement. Teachers need to commit to direct instruction, pulling homogeneous groups, daily English language development for ELD students and a full day of back-to-back academic work.

There just isn't any time for activities that do not directly correspond with standards-based instruction. Let's face it, the standards for each grade level are overwhelming, and if they are not all covered by spring when the standardized test is administered, the students will not excel.

I used to feel that teaching to the standards was too rigorous and did not promote a love for learning. I no longer fell that way. Students want to be successful and are willing and able to put forth effort to achieve and do well. They just need a consistent amount of daily encouragement and once they start to achieve, they want to move forward, and they will get it.

Daily, small-group intervention pull out programs lasting 30 to 45 minutes for low-achieving students focusing on language arts standards where students struggle is a great way to individualize instruction.

Teachers need to collaborate at least twice a month to discuss strategies that are working in their classroom at their grade level. They also need to work closely with the following grade level to prepare students to continue successful academic achievement.

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