What’s ahead for Marysville schools … for the next six to twelve months
by Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent of Schools
Each September starts full of excitement and possibility. We are enthused about what we and our students will learn together. We are eager to grow the potential of each and every student. Here is an update on our goals for the months ahead.
1,200 students start school in new schools.
One out of ten Marysville students will start this year in brand new buildings. The Marysville Secondary Campus, built at no cost to local voters, provides a new home for Arts & Technology High School, Heritage High School and 10th Street Middle School. Seven hundred students now have access to hands-on learning spaces, hot lunch, science labs and gymnasium space … things many have not had in previous facilities.
Grove Elementary, approved by voters in 2006, opened one year early and under budget. The facilities staff and oversight committee helped keep this project on time and on budget. Hundreds more helped order and set up the equipment, books, library, telephone, computers, DVD projectors and more needed to open a new school. Come join us for the dedication of Grove Elementary on September 25th at 6:30 pm!
New math books for middle school students.
New math books have been purchased for grades 6, 7 and 8. Eighth grade math will now look more like Algebra and Core II will become the standard 9th grade curriculum (in 2009). Students entering high school this fall will also need to earn an additional (third) math credit to graduate. These steps will increase the rigor of our math courses and better prepare students for both the WASL and college level courses. We will also look at the state recommendations for high school textbooks and decide whether we need a new high school adoption.
Literacy continues to be the primary focus for instruction and student learning.
The focus over the last few years has been on learning more effective literacy teaching approaches. Needed as well is a more intentional focus on state standards and better ways to know our learners so we can make mid-year adjustments to catch up struggling students. Our professional development K-8 will focus on developing lessons and units around state standards within grade levels. Our high school work will focus on developing units that meet college readiness standards. There is urgency to insure that students at the start of each level of schooling (K/1, 6 and 9) make the transition well and build confidence and competence in literacy.
High school students have eight small learning community choices.
Small learning communities offer students a small school where they can know each teacher and each student; relevant, hands-on curriculum that motivates and interests the students; and all student requirements needed for graduation. Students choose one of eight options: Arts and Technology, Bio-Med Academy, Heritage HS, International School for Communications, Marysville Mountain View, Pathways of Choice, School for the Entrepreneur, or Teaching and Tech. Each SLC provides Advanced Placement classes--at least AP English and US History in every SLC.
Each SLC now has its own principal, counselor and secretary and, to the extent possible, their own physical “space.” For the coming year we will work to prepare all students to be college ready by encouraging more 9th grade students to take the WASL, increasing the number of students taking the PSAT, and developing more college readiness units across core content areas.
WASL scores, Adequate Yearly Progress and achievement gaps.
For the last fifteen years we, as a nation and a state, have focused on getting all students to meet state standards. More time is devoted to academics, to catching up students who are falling behind, and to testing. The state tests, called the “WASL” for Washington Assessment of Student Learning, are now given in grades three to eight and grade ten. Students must now pass the WASL (or an equivalent math class) to graduate.
The national expectation is that every student be proficient by 2014. What does that mean? It means that each year, each school and each district is expected to do better at ensuring that all students achieve at high standards – standards previously expected of only the best prepared students. Schools and districts must show “adequate yearly progress” or be labeled for “school improvement.”
The good news is that, among graduating seniors with enough credits to graduate, all but five passed the WASL. That means that students who stay in school and earn needed credits do in fact acquire the skills needed to pass the WASL and graduate. The not-so-good news is that Marysville scores did not make “adequate yearly progress.”
What the WASL scores don’t show.
The WASL scores reported in the newspapers may not say much about the education your child is receiving. If your child is earning passing grades, and passing the WASL or getting a score near passing (380 to 399), your child is likely on track to graduate. Test scores no longer reflect the average score as they once did. Test scores now show only whether a student reached or did not reach the standard. The large majority of students reach standards. Each year we must work harder to reach the students who are one or two years behind to help them catch up.
Staff training in effective teaching continues to be our biggest investment.
We are committed to accelerating learning for every student – the student who is behind as well as the student who is ahead. We have three major action steps to do so: continue to invest in effective teaching to accelerate learning for each student, develop units of study that focus on state standards, and use early warning systems to address student learning gaps earlier.
We also continue to work on how best to provide interventions that catch kids up. Marysville Middle School had good success this past year with their “double dip” math classes. Students took two periods of math, one where they got pre-teaching and then their regular math class. Some students made one full year’s gain in only one semester.
We do some of our best work during the summer.
Summer is our best time to provide teacher training. One hundred teachers participate in both teaching summer school and effective teaching training. We also had dozens of teachers who took their own time to participate in summer institutes to learn about reading, writing, math and assessment. These teachers start the year with new information, enthusiastic teaching partners, and some students who got a head start on learning over the summer.
Build a culture of multi-cultural understanding, respect and academic success.
There is a crisis in achievement for many of our kids in schools—a large percentage of whom are students of color, students in poverty, and students learning English. Despite our efforts, these students are often not connected to learning in our classrooms, at great peril to their future.
The respect committee (principal and representatives from each building) meets every six weeks to learn how best to build respect and success with our students in each of our multi-cultural groups. Each school is asked to develop action plans that build multi-cultural respect. All school administrators participated in a two-day “undoing racism” workshop in August.
Stephanie Fryberg, MPHS graduate, Tulalip tribal member, Stanford PhD, Professor of the Year at the University of Arizona, and national expert on multi-cultural education, has worked with Marysville schools for the last several years. She has research projects underway at two schools, has provided training at several schools and has worked with the district respect committee. Dr. Fryberg was the keynote speaker at the all-district welcome back event for 1,300 Marysville employees. Stephanie shared with us what we are learning about the cultural barriers that may interfere with student learning and the classroom practices that hold promise.
Enrollment predicted to remain steady at 11,700 in uncertain market.
Each year we study housing starts, birth rates, number of elementary students moving up to middle school and middle school students making the transition to high school. We look at the economy and the average number of students who will live in each new home (0.62, we’re told). We look at past trends. And then we make an educated estimate based on the best information we can find.
In the last four years we have been up 1 percent, up 2 percent, no growth, and down 1 percent. Our best estimate for this year was zero growth. The next few days and weeks will tell us whether we have estimated high or low.
The unsettled economy is unsettling for schools as well. We have smoother starts when we estimate right and don’t need to move many students or teachers. If we estimate low, we add more teachers. If we estimate high, we must make budget reductions—as much as $500,000 if we have a shortfall of 100 students. Given the growth in Snohomish County we do expect the growth to continue, now or in the near future.
Major work to improve student learning environment (aka discipline).
As we start school one major focus in each school is to be clear about student expectations and teach positive behavior. In addition, each school and each teacher will develop a positive learning environment plan. The middle school discipline matrix has been revised to be more consistent district wide. Similar work is underway at the high school level. Safe and Civil Schools, a positive discipline approach, will be continued at each middle school and expanded to several elementary schools. Students are encouraged to report any concerns about safety by calling the anonymous Tip Line at 1-866-LIVE-TIP (548-3846) code 164.
Partnerships help build healthy youth networks.
It takes “village builders” to create successful youth. Research shows students who succeed in life have more of the “40 Developmental Assets”--things like strong networks, relationships, and people who care about them. We are fortunate to have many community partners helping to develop youth assets.
United Way is funding programs in Marysville that develop these assets in youth. Greg Erickson, district athletic director, obtained an $800,000 grant for health and fitness that will help expand the 40 Developmental Assets in schools. The City of Marysville and the YMCA have initiated healthy community grants supporting nutrition and activity for youth and the community. The Marysville Library provides a homework hotline. Churches are developing after-school tutoring programs. School staff at Totem created a Marysville Youth Action Network. “Thank you” to our partners, who are working to make Marysville a better place to learn, grow and live.
As we start this school year we want to grow our potential – our potential as professionals and the potential of our students. We are committed to being learners as well as being teachers, to acquire the knowledge and practices that will help us grow the potential of each and every student in Marysville.