So what impact has NCLB had on Sonoma’s schools? The accountability movement came to California before Congress got ahold of it, and we were already on a track to improve student achievement as measured by standardized test scores when NCLB came into effect in 2002. Over the last decade, Sonoma’s test scores have improved steadily for all subgroups including for students living in poverty, for English language learners and for special education students.
But here, we have moved far beyond the simple metrics of an annual test to track our progress. We have implemented better collaboration among teachers and schools across the District using the Professional Learning Community model. This allows teachers time to talk about what is working and what isn’t, and to continue to learn from each other. It also allows and facilitates production conversations between grade levels and schools. For example, middle school math teachers are hearing from high school math teachers about what they are seeing in ninth graders that is helping them be successful. Social studies, science and language arts teachers are integrating curriculum so that students can enhance their education and practice skills in a variety of contexts.
We have adopted a Cycle of Inquiry approach that facilitates data driven decision making. A Cycle of Inquiry involves the identification of a problem, brainstorming possible solutions, choosing and implementing one, and then measuring results. The process then begins again, building on successes and fine tuning to address shortcomings.
Finally, we have been compelled to think about what really matters in the success of our students. My own vision focuses on five strategic benchmarks: 1) high quality preschool opportunities for all four year olds; 2) all students reading at grade level by the end of third grade; 3) all students English proficient by the end of fifth grade; 4) all students ready for college preparatory classes by ninth grade (including Algebra); and 5) all students college and career ready upon graduation from high school!
Too much to hope for? I don’t think so. We have the teachers, administrators and staff to do this and much more. We have awesome students and families, great community partners including non-profits serving youth, and generous donors of time and treasure to the cause of public education in the Valley. Stay tuned….