Middle grades principals strong on council work

March 19, 2018 Staff Writer

ACSA’s Middle Grades Education Council has a rich history of participation, and its March 8 meeting in Sacramento was no exception.

Fifteen of the 19 region representatives were in attendance to hear Melanie Schoeppe, director of the Improvement and Accountability Division at the California Department of Education, discuss the new California School Dashboard.

Notable information shared by Schoeppe included the following:

  • There will be no action taken for now on state test participation rates under 95 percent. Though rates will be noted, color codes on the Dashboard will not reflect lower participation.
  • California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress student-level data is not currently available on the Dashboard.
  • The State Board of Education planned to take up social-emotional learning indicators at their next meeting.

In addition, council members presented best practices, an activity that is in line with one of the council purposes: “To strengthen a network for communication among middle grades administrators.” The meeting topic was “preparing for California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) administration.”

Julie Johansen, Region 1 principal of Fortuna Middle School, shared her school’s initiative to engage students and get buy-in on the state tests. Fifth through eighth graders earn recognition and take part in games to win treats like movie tickets in the “Star Wars” themed initiative.

A Yoda graphic was created for use on posters that shows the syntactically challenged Jedi master character in a school Spartan helmet, delivering advice such as, “Shhhhhh. Quiet in the halls you must be. The test Spartans are taking” and “Their best on the test, Spartans will do.”

Johansen said the incentives program includes goal-setting rallies and rewards for individual efforts. It has resulted in students taking more time with the tests and trying their best.

“They also seem to have less test anxiety,” she said. “It sends a message more than, ‘We just need to get through this.’”

Region 11 representative Kirsti Smith, principal at Murray Middle School, shared her Respect, Explore, Achieve, Lead (REAL) Weeks program.

Every five-week reporting period, the school has a REAL Week. The bell schedule is changed that week to deliver an extra 45 minute period each day, when students who haven’t mastered the standards in English language arts or math are placed in a REAL intervention – usually about 180 students. The rest of the students are in enrichment for the 45 minute period all week.

“This has helped the struggling student because she or he feels more comfortable asking questions and really figuring out what they are learning in a smaller, concentrated setting,” Smith said.

Data shows the REAL work has been positive. Students are mastering standards, as indicated by interim testing.

In other Middle Grades Education Council news, Mike Tsuboi, middle school principal in Porterville Unified School District, has been named 2018-19 council president. He has served as ACSA liaison on the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Central Section, and as such has held a seat on the Secondary Education Council. As a candidate for president-elect, Tsuboi served as a 2017 ACSA delegate to the NASSP Region 7 Fall Conference in Portland, Ore. He succeeds Kelley Birch as president.

The council meeting included discussion of the middle grades strand at the 2018 Leadership Summit, Nov. 8-10 in San Diego; proposed goals and meeting structure for 2018-19; and ACSA Board and partner updates. Council members were urged to attend the April 15-16 Legislative Action Day event.

Also on the agenda for this last meeting of the year was celebrating service on the council for six representatives completing their terms: Julie Johansen, Region 1; Jay Holmes, Region 2; Mistee Hightower-Guzman, Region 6; Amy Hasselwander, Region 7; Mayra Helo-Trevino, Region 9; and Kiela Snider, Region 19.

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