By Nancy Gutierrez
At a joint work-study between the Exeter Union High School and Exeter Union School District, board members were given a presentation by Bay Area School Reform Collaborative (BASRC) representative Marsha Plumbly about what to expect in their journey with BASRC.
BASRC is a non-profit organization, founded in 1995, with a goal to help schools increase student achievement and close achievement gaps between minority, poor, English language learners and their higher-achieving peers. Schools on average have gaps between the achievement of different groups of children. In the Bell Air School District the California Standardized Test scores of the white and Asian students were higher than those of the Hispanic students. A line graph provided by Plumbly showed how large the gap actually was. She said normally these gaps never close. BASRC has helped Bell Air and other schools to narrow the gap while maintaining the increase in student performance for the higher achieving group.
Both districts approved contracts to participate in BASRC. They will share the $50,000 fee for participating. In return both districts will receive district and school wide assessments on where Exeter students currently stand as well as coaches who will help create school-wide action plans and teaching strategies for the classroom. Both districts will receive coaching on how to make student achievement data useful.
"We offer what we have learned," Plumbly said. "In the form of professional development in a variety of areas and on-site support."
Plumbly said there are several key areas that BASRC focuses on and hopes to change or improve. The first is to improve the quality of teaching.
"This does not mean that your teachers are not doing a good job," she said. Plumbly explained to the board that teaching strategies and areas of focus are constantly changing in the field of education. Teachers are constantly learning and implementing new plans. BASRC will help to provide strategies that are working in schools similar to Exeter.
A second area is narrowing the focus of the school. Plumbly discussed focusing on a few things to do really well. Third, Plumbly said schools need to implement the best practices.
"There is no time to reinvent the wheel," she said. "And it doesn't have to be 10 schools [using a successful strategy]. If one district similar to Exeter, is doing something that works then it can be implemented here."
Exeter's partnership with BASRC is for three years. It will begin with a district assessment where areas of strength will be identified and goals will be assessed.
A two person instructional team will be assigned to the district and special support from BASRC will be available. BASRC will make quarterly adjustments to the district and school site action plans.
"What will our kids look like at the end of this? Will our kids be more prepared for college or to get a job." EUHSD board president Ernie Hernandez asked.
Plumbly said BASRC's job is to help get students proficient or better in academic skills like reading or math.
"We help build capacity so that students get proficient in reading and math and have a better shot at college [and a career]," Plumbly said.
Though the partnership is for three years Plumbly told the board members that being a high achieving district is continuous work.
"You don't arrive at high achievement," she said. "You can't fix it and have it fixed forever," she said. "You always work at it."
BASRC was started in the Bay Area. This is its first year working with valley schools. Other local school districts involved in the collaborative are Sanger Unified, and Kingsburg Unified.