The Governing Board of the Benicia Unified School District unanimously approved the Single Plans for Student Achievement (SPSAs) at two of its elementary schools Thursday. The plans were written by the school’s site councils and presented by their principals.
Robert Semple Elementary
The first to present was Christina Moore, the principal of Robert Semple Elementary School. The first thing she did was go over the previous year’s goals.
“These goals were written by our Site Council, taken to my staff and developed in a way that we thought would really allow us to monitor progress,” she said. “What we found was that it was actually more difficult than we anticipated.”
The first two goals were to increase the amount of students meeting and exceeding math and English Language Arts (ELA) standards by 5 percent, as measured by the results of the Benchmark and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) exams. Most grades showed increases in these areas and some showed decreases, but Moore said additional work needed to be done to analyze this data for future goals.
“While our actuals show, we think, pretty great growth in almost all areas, we felt the need to really drill down and take a look at what is really contributing to our gains and our declines,” she said.
Moore felt that while taking four subgroups— English Learner, African-American, special education and socioeconomically disadvantaged students—into consideration, the Site Council was able to write its goals for the 2017-18 school year in a way that was more efficient. The new goals for 2017-18 included increasing the overall percentage of students meeting or exceeding math standards from 48 to 53 percent and ELA from 44 to 58 percent, both by June. For each of the identified subgroups, the goals were to have the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the math and ELA standards in most cases by 2 percent but in other cases from 8 percent from the 2016-17 results.
Moore also talked about the previous year’s goal of reducing office referrals and suspensions by 50 percent. She said that when she took over as Semple’s principal in 2015-16, there were 42 suspensions that year.
“The suspensions were justified, but the correction I didn’t feel was effective,” she said.
Around this time, Robert Semple piloted Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), which Moore said made all the difference. In 2016-17, the school had only 11 suspensions.
“We did have incidences that previously resulted in a suspension, but we were able to identify harm and restore relationships and build trust and learn from those mistakes and we found that they did not repeat,” she said.
Moore said this was done through a procedure called restorative practice, which aims to fix relationships that have been damaged.
“We are already seeing a difference and we attribute that to the connections and the language and the tools that we are giving our students,” she said.
Moore said that often suspensions are seen as a “vacation” for the students and when they return, the problem is still prevalent.
“That’s why we needed to dig a little bit deeper,” she said.
Semple’s goal for this year is to decrease the number of office referrals and suspensions from 11 to no more than six and continue to monitor and promote PBIS.
Joe Henderson Elementary
The next to present was Melanie Buck, the new principal of Joe Henderson Elementary School. She reviewed the 2016-17 goals crafted by the previous Site Council, which included a standard 5 percent increase in ELA and math proficiency, as measured by the CAASPP and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Buck noted that a lot of grades showed a slight increase over the 2015-16 school year, particularly in math, but most did not meet the 5 percent goal.
“Overall, the students did better in math and we had more increase in math than they did in ELA,” she said. “There’s some talking points about possible reasons why, and I’m going to focus on moving forward and what we’re going to do this next year.”
Buck reviewed another 2016-17 goal, which was to have 80 percent of parents, staff and students identify and demonstrate an understanding of the school’s rules, as measured through PBIS team and parent surveys. Buck said parents were not administered a survey, but 100 percent of staff and 73 percent of students could identify the rules. She also noted that there were three suspensions but no data for office referrals.
For 2017-18, Buck said the school sought to aim harder than the 5 percent increases. Henderson staff are hoping to increase ELA scores on the SBAC from 61 to 68 percent and math scores from 64 to 70 percent, in regards to students meeting or exceeding the standards. The percentage increases for the four identified subgroups, however, would have larger goals but only due to a smaller population within those groups.
“Our subgroups are not really reflected on the SBAC because we do not have a significant number of students in any of these subgroups,” Buck said.
For example, she noted that Henderson had only four EL students who took the SBAC and none of them passed either portion.
“We really want to push forward and work with our RSP teacher and our inclusion teacher and really utilizing the special purpose aides because they’re in there doing their day-to-day gruntwork but we want to make sure what they’re doing is effective,” she said. “Monitoring that will be important.”
Therefore, one goal is to increase the percentage of EL students meeting or exceeding the standards from 0 to at least 25 percent. Another is to increase the percentage of special education student scores from 6 to at least 11 percent.
In terms of student culture, Buck said major goals were for the attendance percentage to increase from 96.38 to 96.75 percent by June and move the school to the second tier of PBIS by August.
To reach the goals, Buck said the school is working to create a data dashboard to identify target students from ELA and math and utilize measurable actions. It will also continue to monitor PBIS implementation, which Buck said the school has made gains in all areas of the Tiered Fidelity Inventory, including team composition and procedures, implementation and evaluation.
Buck said staff was excited about the goals for Henderson.
“Everybody’s charged about taking it to the next level,” she said.
The board unanimously approved both plans. The remaining two elementary schools— Mary Farmar and Matthew Turner—will present their plans at a later meeting.
In other matters, Superintendent Dr. Charles Young highlighted the achievements of Benicia High School tennis coach Lisa Burton and badminton coach Tom Stephens who were named as SCAC female coach of the year and model coach of the year respectively. He also recognized Semple second grader Keira Call for winning second place in the K-2 category of the Solano County Office of Education’s Attendance Awareness Poster Contest.
The board will next meet Thursday, Nov. 16.