While the faces large cuts to programs and services, community members can rejoice in the fact that its students are showing improvements in reading throughout the district.
According to a Division of Teaching and Learning report presented to the Board of Education earlier this week, the district is closing the achievement gap between its highest and lowest performing sub-groups.
A higher percentage of students have already met, or are projected to meet, their growth targets in reading so far this year than by the end of the 2009-10 school year, according to Chief Academic Officer Wendy Gudalewicz.
In addition, more African American students have met or are expected to meet reading growth targets this year in fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth grades. Latino students in second and eighth grades are also on the same patch, according ot the report.
In math, 249 Latino students and 81 African-American students are passing advanced classes in middle schools, up from 109 and 45, respectively, last year. At James Logan High School, 85 Latino and 51 African-American students are passing advanced classes, up from 38 and 18 last year.
The improvements are credited to the district’s strong emphasis on literacy, which includes a writer’s workshop and reading apprenticeship program, among other initiatives. As a result, there was a 10 percent increase in students ranking as proficient or advanced in the English Language Arts category of California Standards Tests.
The district will continue to make literacy the main priority this year, Gudalewicz said.
In its strategic plan, the district highlighted its “Seven Essentials,” which are based on a review of the schools’ highest needs.
Developing a “safe, respectful learning environment” ranked fourth on the list due to the fact that expulsions and disciplinary actions have reduced significantly in recent years, Gudalewicz said.
There were 378 suspensions district-wide during the first semester this year, down from 616 in the 2008-09 school year. Expulsions among African-American and Latino students have also dropped 67 percent since 2008-09.
According to the report, there have only been 11 expulsions total so far this year. There were 103 in 2005-06.
The district will receive an end-of-year report in early July.
The new strategic plan also calls for an increase in parent education and outreach.
“We have to have the partnership of families,” said Nancy George, executive director for the New Haven Adult School.
A parent forum will be held on April 14.
Parent education, however, is one of several pieces to the district’s success that is threatened by current budget pressures.
The Board of Education also approved the second interim budget for 2010-11 and budget projections for the next two consecutive years on Tuesday night. The budget plan includes personnel and program cuts to cover at least a $3 million shortfall next year. The shortfall may increase to $10 million if a local parcel tax and proposed state tax extensions fail.
Measure B, a local $180 parcel tax, is expected to generate $3 million a year for the next four years. Ballots will be mailed to New Haven voters starting April 4 for a vote-by-mail special election. Votes may be cast until the May 3 deadline.
If the California Legislature approves Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to place state tax extensions on a June ballot, and if voters pass it, the school district would recover about $4 million.
Earlier this month, the district approved layoffs for 65 full-time equivalent positions, the majority of whom are teachers. Some staff may be rehired if both measures pass.
If neither pass, the New Haven Adult School would be shut down, class sizes would increase to 30-to-1 in kindergarten through third grade classes, the middle school and high school libraries would close, counseling staff would be reduced and transportation would be eliminated entirely save for special education.