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TRUSTEE WANTS TO SEE CHANGE FOCUS ON STUDENTS URGED.

Byline: KAREN MAESHIRO Staff Writer

LANCASTER -- Antelope Valley High School's state trustee recommends overhauling the school's special-education program, creating a ``welcome room'' for new students, and instituting steps to develop ``teacher ownership'' of the school.

Assigned to oversee the campus because of lagging test scores, trustee Nadine Barreto also called for monitoring student discipline and teacher absences, looking at assessment data on an ongoing basis to make sure students are mastering what they are being taught, and providing help to students who are performing two grade levels below in reading and math.

``We have to ask the hard questions about what students are doing, who doesn't get it, what's happening in the classroom to enhance student achievement,'' Barreto said at a special high school board meeting Monday evening. ``We need to build a true sense of a student-centered classroom.''

Antelope Valley High was among the first six California schools to face sanctions, such as state trusteeship, because its standardized test scores failed to improve consistently under state monitoring.

As trustee, Barreto has the authority to overrule local administrators' decision, but Barreto said that has not happened yet, citing a collaborative spirit between her and officials of the school and the Antelope Valley Union High School District. Barreto started work at the school Aug. 14.

The school improved its API scores by two points this year, which puts it one year away from getting out from under state monitoring.

``The goal is to get rid of Nadine Barreto. That's my goal,'' Barreto said at the meeting in the school's library with more than 30 staffers and parents in attendance. ``The real goal is to help the school sustain the two points that they got.''

Barreto wants to restructure the special-education program in part because of the large number of its students being sent out of the classroom for disciplinary reasons. In addition, support staffers such as psychologists and administrators were not close to the special-education classrooms to provide service immediately.

Antelope Valley High School's special-education student population is about 25 percent, or more than 500 students, which is high, Barreto said. High schools typically have 7 percent to 8 percent of their students identified as special education, Barreto said.

A retreat will be held for special-education staff members to develop a plan to better serve the students.

The ``Welcome Room'' will help ease the transition for students who are new to the school. Antelope Valley enrolls approximately seven to 10 new students a week.

Traditionally upon their arrival, new students are seen by a counselor, who reviews their transcripts, gives them a class schedule and sends them off.

To help students get better acclimated to the school and define what their needs are for better placement, new students would spend their first week of school in the ``Welcome Room,'' where they would have one-on-one communication with a teacher, be assessed in math, writing and English, and learn about school activities and clubs.

``Our focus is to get them to know us,'' Principal Trish Lockhart said. ``Students who have a connection with teachers and staff do better. It's a plan for kids to get connected and feel a part of the Antelope Valley High School family.''

To help develop ``teacher ownership,'' Barreto and the administration would meet with small groups of instructors who teach the core subjects of English, math, science and social studies.

``We would pull out core teachers six at a time to meet with Trish and me to review data, review classroom management, and set expectations about what to do collectively and individually to get passion and ownership about what's happening at Antelope Valley,'' Barreto said.

Barreto also recommended two areas of monitoring: teacher attendance and referrals for student discipline.

On some days, such as Mondays and Fridays, there appears to be a significant number of teachers who are absent, which potentially could be due to illness but she's not sure, Barreto said.

``You and I both know kids do better when kids are in front of a teacher,'' Barreto said.

In the area of student discipline, Barreto feels there needs to be a re-evaluation of how teachers manage their classrooms. Students learn more if they remain in class with an effective teacher.

``What are classroom management strategies? How do we keep kids in class?'' Barreto said.

Random classroom visits by small groups of teachers would help facilitate a discussion about how students engage in learning and better instructional strategies.

``The administration is young,'' Barreto said of the school's principal and her team. ``The beauty of it is they are passionate, bright and they have an urgency and passion to turn the school into a high-performing school,'' Barreto said.

Parents asked whether students would be like ``guinea pigs'' and whether the plan's components had been tried before.

Assistant Superintendent Michael Vierra responded, ``We are taking best practices and making it unique to the school. Research shows it works with students. We fine-tune it by looking at the data.''

Board member Tom Pigott, a retired sheriff's captain, commented that the staff has a tough, thankless job, noting similarities between the teaching and law enforcement professions.

``You've got a resistant public, parents who have abrogated their responsibility and say, `You raise my child,''' Pigott said. ``Kids bring a lot of baggage. You are expected to wade through that.''

He later said, ``You are saving lives. The stakes are high, the risks great, the payoff incalculable.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 11, 2006
Words:904
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