Outlining a broader vision for quality schools
by Dave Schwab
Oct 10, 2012 | 2271 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State of the District address urges more collaboration through local ‘clusters’

Rolling out a dozen measures of quality schools, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) board member John Lee Evans in his 2012 State of the District address unveiled “2020 Vision,” a long-range plan for raising the bar on student achievement, turning schools into neighborhood learning centers, engaging parents and volunteers more and building intra-district collaboration through local “clusters.”

“We are a forward-moving district,” said Evans on Oct. 2 at an assembly at University City High School.

Noting the district “still has a long way to go,” while adding, “This is a marathon not a sprint,” Evans promised the district will prepare students properly to “soar like eagles.”

SDUSD’s class of 2020, now in the fifth grade, was well represented throughout the event, both during video presentations and during live, on-stage performances.

Introducing Evans, District Superintendent Bill Kowba noted the annual address was an opportunity to “celebrate and reflect on all the great things happening, all the positive programming that is preparing all students for successful futures.”

Quantifiable measures of student success embodied in “2020 Vision” include: access to a broad and challenging curriculum, professional learning for all staff, parent/community engagement around student achievement, closing the achievement gap with high expectations for all, quality teaching, quality leadership, quality support staff integrated and focused on student achievement, valuing diversity in the service of students, high enrollment of neighborhood students, digital literacy, creation of neighborhood centers with services depending on neighborhood needs and creation of a supportive environment with safe and well-maintained facilities.

Though the State of the District address was decidedly upbeat, Evans nonetheless noted SDUSD officials have “kept our focus on the educational mission while facing unprecedented challenges.”

Evans gave kudos to district staff at all levels, “including the superintendent himself,” for self sacrifice in arriving at a budgetary compromise this last summer by accepting concessions to “cut administrative and transportation costs to protect the classroom.”

Without the agreed-upon cutbacks, Evans warned there would have been “huge classes in lower grades, increasing by as much as 50 percent.” He added the district would have been seriously short of counselors and nurses as well as losing skilled leaders in arts programs like instrumental music.

“The list goes on and on,” he said.

Evans noted the idea for “2020 Vision” came from a “constant state of budget crisis” prompted by continuing state budget cuts to education and the realization that SDUSD “didn’t have a long-term plan.”

“We knew there were pockets of success around the district, as well as pockets of failure,” said Evans. “We needed to find a way to spread the best practices around the district.”

The task of devising a long-range plan promoting best-district practices coalesced around two questions.

“What are our goals for student achievement and how are we going to measure?” asked Evans. “And what is a quality school?”

“We need broad and challenging curricula in both college prep and technical training which are carried through in ‘Vision 2020’ and we need to be able to measure the success of our revised goals for student achievement with a much better measure than standard state and federal test scores,” said Evans. “Student achievement also means developing critical thinking skills and promoting creative physical fitness while promoting the fine arts, music and other areas.”

Evans pledged that SDUSD “must have high expectations for all our students to close the achievement gap.”

“But we don’t want to close the achievement gap by having students at higher levels slow down,” he said.

A centerpiece of “2020 Vision,” turning schools into neighborhood learning centers, was discussed by Evans.

“We want to reinvent our neighborhood schools, make sure they’re actually a part of the community with strong ties to neighborhoods,” he said. “We want to have more parent participation.”

Noting research shows a clear positive correlation between parent participation and student achievement, Evans said, “We don’t want to send kids out of the neighborhood simply because they don’t have a quality school nearby.”

To achieve neighborhood involvement and integration with schools, Evans said SDUSD is depending on cluster councils formed by school representatives in geographically-based districts to work cooperatively.

“These cluster councils are similar to town councils and planning groups that advise the City Council on issues that affect local communities,” said Evans. “We need to have this dialogue back and forth, all of us working together.”
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