Principals, Board Examine Goals

Study sessions offer district officials, staff a chance to
gather and evaluate progress
Gilroy – Who knew study sessions could evoke so much emotion?

When asked to explain the importance of the evening sessions wherein the Gilroy Unified School District board and site principals assessed student proficiency and set goals, Superintendent Edwin Diaz’s lips quickly formed a smile.

For two years, the GUSD board has staged meetings between local principals from every elementary, middle and high school in Gilroy, and Diaz said he’s definitely noticed a difference on both paper and in attitude.

“I was extremely pleased with their level of depth and understanding of the special needs of the kids,” he said. “The principals are so much more knowledgeable. It was just a dramatic improvement.”

Diaz said all of the officials that showed up for the meetings had a “high level of confidence.”

GUSD officials hope that by staging meetings between the board and principals throughout the year, identifying the areas of concern, setting goals and encouraging principals to meet on a monthly basis with their teachers, student proficiency will rise.

The GUSD board recently completed four evenings of study sessions with local principals and other site officials. What makes the GUSD study sessions unique is they’re actually not mandated by the state. California only requires each site to devise a school plan annually and have it approved by the board.

During the October meetings, principals compiled data, referred to as Tier 2 and 3 reports, and toted it to the district office. For the Tier 2 report principals set their objectives for this year. The Tier 3 report was a narrative and analysis of “what worked and what didn’t,” from last year, said GUSD Trustee Pat Midtgaard.

Midtgaard said the board spent about 12 hours meeting with principals for the first set of study sessions. The reports were much more in depth this year, said the board vice president.

During the study sessions, principals looked at a variety of common assessments such as the California Standards Test or a national assessment test called Measure of Academic Progress in order to evaluate student proficiency in a variety of areas and set goals.

South Valley Middle School Principal John Perales said that way schools can really hone in on the areas where students need help. For example, students may have done well on the literacy portion of a test “but they crashed and burned in vocabulary,” said Perales.

The study sessions really help school officials hone in on specific areas of need and for South Valley that means improving writing, language arts, math, technology and parent involvement.

“You have to know where your kids are,” he said. “You have to know what medicine they need.”

Principals and site officials, including teachers, will meet with the board for mid-year study sessions, probably in February. But in the meantime no one’s resting.

Principals hold monthly sessions with teachers looking at not only the entire class’ performance but each individual student. Perales is confident that the in-depth look at student assessments will have a positive effect.

“It’s what we’re doing at our site that will lead more students toward proficiency,” he said.

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