San Luis Coastal circumventing state guidelines in effort to close Teach

February 18, 2013

desksBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District is circumventing California Department of Education guidelines on closing a school in its apparent effort to shut down Teach Elementary.

The district is considering closing Teach, an accelerated learning school for 4th through 6th grades that shares a campus with Bishop’s Peak Elementary. Both overcrowding and philosophical reasons factor into the proposal of closing Teach.

In exploring the option of shutting Teach down, San Luis Coastal is bypassing a set of best practices for closing a school created by the state department of education.

Although not law, the best practices guide consists of a five-step process for closing a school. A major element within the first step of fact gathering is forming a district advisory committee of seven to 11 community members to provide input to the district on the closure process. The advisory committee would hold open meetings subject to the Brown Act.

California Department of Education Closing a School Best Practices Guide states, “It is legislative intent, but not a mandate for a district to have and use a District Advisory Committee.”

Additionally, Education Code Section 17387 states, “It is the intent of the legislature to have the community involved before decisions are made about school closure.”

But, Assistant Superintendent Rick Robinett says the best practices guidelines do not apply to the circumstances surrounding the possible closure of Teach.

“The guide is written primarily for the consideration of school closures as a way of dealing with issues of declining enrollment and/or budget,” Robinett wrote in an email to CalCoastNews. “Conversely, the decisions about capacity issues (over-enrollment), the housing of two schools on one campus and philosophical differences about a school specifically for 4th through 6th grade accelerated learners are the lenses through which the Board of Education is viewing the decision.”

San Luis Obispo attorney Saro Rizzo said the district is disregarding the spirit of the law by not adhering to the best practices.

“It is the intent of the legislature to say that this is something that should not be done behind closed doors without public participation,” Rizzo said.

Following community protest and media questions, Superintendent Eric Prater issued a recommendation Friday that the board establish a task force at its upcoming meeting Tuesday. Prater says the task force would create “great conversation” on the style of learning offered at Teach and other methods of fostering high-proficiency learners . The proposed task force would consist of district staff, parents, education experts and members of the community.

But, as proposed, the task force would not function as the school-closure committee, discussed in the best practices guidelines.

Robinett says it is “a premature conclusion” to suggest that the district is proposing closing Teach.

Yet, in the superintendent’s recommendations for the board, Prater also suggests putting a one-year moratorium on 4th grade enrollment at Teach beginning this fall.

While Prater says the moratorium would serve to provide classrooms for neighborhood students on the Bishop’s Peak campus, critics says it is an attempt to incrementally shut down the school. Many parents believe the moratorium could last an additional two years, shutting down Teach altogether.

“It’s a way to kill the school under the guise of let’s be reasonable,” Teach parent Vanessa Rizzo said.

Rizzo helped circulate an online petition started by Teach parent Helen Sipsas, calling for the board to postpone action on Teach until the public participates in a more meaningful way. As of Monday, the petition received 697 digital signatures on the website change.org.

“In essence, I feel [Prater] has manipulated our message,” Rizzo said. “As parents we signed a petition saying that Teach be left alone for a year until we figure out the right thing to do.”

 







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38 Comments

  1. SLOEducator says:

    Teach school is an asset, and it is too bad that some see this program as a threat. The best school districts in the nation all have a variety of magnet schools, including accelerated learning programs.

    We should make sure that rhetoric from the district administration does not blind us from the real purpose of education: meeting the needs of all students. The superintendent would like nothing more than to divide and conquer SLCUSD in order to create *his* version of education. There IS room for all of us as teachers, students and parents to succeed.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
    • JackR says:

      Where’s the statistics that show how these elementary school kids did in high school and college?

      I was labeled as “gifted” in elementary school and got to go to all sorts of field trips and programs that the other kids didn’t get to go to. I did homework all the time and by the time I got to college, I was burnt out with school.

      IMO, elementary school is too early to have this type of school.

      (-8) 14 Total Votes - 3 up - 11 down
      • SLOEducator says:

        The normed statistics were presented by a Cal Poly professor at the last school board meeting. The exact information can be found in correspondence to the board and shows that Teach students do indeed find continued educational success.

        (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
        • jackbnimble says:

          But is their educational success any different than that of non-Teach students (particularly those who were of similar academic abilty)? How do we know that they wouldn’t have had great educational success even if they hadn’t gone to Teach?

          (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
          • CenCoast says:

            Many kids who would have “fit right in” do not enroll at Teach, for a variety of reasons. And they are just as successful, I’m sure, especially if they have active and involved parents, and/or if their home school has a culture of achievement, etc…

            What separates Teach from a traditional school is that teach have a learn-by-doing, projects based pedagogy, something certain children really benefit from. Teach is for those kids who seek that type of an environment. And success comes from kids who now enjoy school and who enjoy learning in that different setting, something that they were not able to attain, despite terrific teachers/enriching curricula, at their home schools.

            (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  2. jackbnimble says:

    I have grown children, but my neighbors have elementary school-aged kids, so we have had several discussions about this issue. We both support the closure of Teach School, but you will never see us writing letters to the school board, starting petitions, writing letters to the editor, or trying to corral everyone we know to jump on our bandwagon. Why? Well, for my neighbor, he will just continue sending his kids to the local elementary school in our neighborhood. The existence of Teach does not impact him, given his feelings about it (other than the indirect impact Teach’s existence has on the student body and budget at his school). For me, while I think its time to shut down, it doesn’t impact me at all, direct or indirect. My point? That the anti-Teach crowd is out there andi in larger numbers than you might think, but they see no need to scream and shout.

    Is there any evidence that Teach graduates have have better academic outcomes in/after high school? My daughter, while in high school, once pointed out that the kids who had gone to Teach (I don’t believe it was actually known as “Teach” at the time) were not doing any better in high school than the other kids, and in fact, none of the kids known as the highest performers were Teach graduates.

    (-4) 24 Total Votes - 10 up - 14 down
    • OsosGrande says:

      In this era of testing and assements, Teach has continued to have some of the highest scores in the District. Why? Teach has highly motivated students who have highly motivated parents.
      By closing Teach, these students AND parents would be returned to their neighborhood schools. These students and parents will continue to be motivated and lead the other schools in increasing their test scores making the District/Prater look better on the scorecard.
      It is, in the end, only and always about the test scores.

      (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down
  3. SLOBIRD says:

    I am sorry about the negative comments being made about accelerated learning and the fact that we allocate money for this depriving lower learning students Really, this is your logic! I have a friend that has a son in a class of 25 and she told me that there are 5 problem boys in that class (3rd grade) that threaten the teachers, bully the other students, get up and disturb the class when they don’t like something, etc. The school had to get a restraining order to keep the parents of one of he boy’s off campus because they are threatening in their demeanor and state that “boys will be boys”.

    We spend more on the immersion school (Pacheco) and special education, a continuation school (Pacific Beach) and no one is saying word about “special” schools to meet the needs of other students. Yet, a school that has accelerated learning students, achievers on their merits, achievers willing to go the extra mile, work harder, do more are being condemned because they too have needs and challenges. And to call the students and parents elitist is discriminating, the very thing you are pointing your finger at.

    Close all special schooling, immersion, continuation and have a flat line education and maybe this will make everyone equal. No extra activities where everyone is not equal, be it football, cheer-leading, drama, etc. If everyone cannot be equal, it should not be offered.

    We are not all equal (sorry for those who can’t understand this) at learning, sports, arts, or with our looks, weight, height, color or with our finances, successes, etc. but we all have something to contribute to this society. Recognize the benefit to society these young people will contribute in years to come as well as the talents of other students.

    (16) 24 Total Votes - 20 up - 4 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      I have read your comment a couple of times; are you trying to be ironic? It appears so, but perhaps you could clarify if that was your intention.

      (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
      • SLOBIRD says:

        Yes, Bob, sarcastic is where I was going. I was just trying to make a reasonable point(s).

        (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  4. Jorge Estrada says:

    It is my opinion that this is all about the over achieving parents who are teaching their snobettes a twisted value system. I say work on better public schools, bring back the paddle and let the young know that they are free to be as liberal as they want after 18 years of age. Until then, this is all about learning to be a good citizen and if desired, a good parent.

    (-9) 23 Total Votes - 7 up - 16 down
    • tomsquawk says:

      my son was having problems at his high school. the student counselor told him that high school wasn’t fun unless you were a jock or a cheerleader.

      we transferred both my children to a better public school. this had nothing to do with “over achieving parents who are teaching their snobettes a twisted value system.”

      they went to a different school and performed better. the fish stinks from the head down

      (15) 21 Total Votes - 18 up - 3 down
  5. swmut says:

    And why shouldn’t we cater to our best and brightest students? I know of students at every level bored out of thier minds…because the classroom they are in conforms to average expectations for that grade level.

    These students at Teach and similar programs are our brightest hope for keeping up with China and India in science/math. They are the future doctors and engineers of this country.

    (24) 30 Total Votes - 27 up - 3 down
    • tomsquawk says:

      well, 1st, a child in a remedial class would have less self-esteem and fearful of not getting his trophy just like the winners. ther threat of closing it down is probably a play to get parental cash.
      i support the voucher system.

      this is endemic to our society as a whole; have you looked at the Nature Channel recently? their show about Alaska was a low level reality show.

      (-3) 11 Total Votes - 4 up - 7 down
      • CenCoast says:

        We do have a quasi voucher system here – it’s called open enrollment. Parents can enroll their child at any school in the district, provided there’s room. And this is why we are all here ….

        (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  6. racket says:

    The little I know about Teach seems to indicate that it allows accelerated learning because it does not accept its share of slow or challenged learners.

    If true, then the whole concept of Teach opens a can of worms regarding how we manage our slow learners. In a “regular” classroom, the class can only progress as fast as its slowest members.

    A case could be made that Teach is, and has been, not shouldering its portion of teaching those with learning disabilities or other challenges. If true, how do they get away with that, and why is it fair?

    (-22) 32 Total Votes - 5 up - 27 down
    • tomsquawk says:

      cuts right to the chase; everybody gets a trophy

      (10) 16 Total Votes - 13 up - 3 down
    • unlisted says:

      By your logic, my high school should have let me on the football team even though I was slow and have no depth perception. The kids who were blind and had polio should have been allowed to play, as well, no?

      (6) 14 Total Votes - 10 up - 4 down
      • racket says:

        No. That’s not my point at all.

        Using your analogy, my point is that the star players got to form a dream team, leaving the rest of the school to muddle along without them. The rest of the school has to make room for the blind and polio-ridden players, the dream team gets to do their own thing.

        (-5) 9 Total Votes - 2 up - 7 down
    • SLOEducator says:

      A class generally progresses at the speed of the class norm, sometimes leaving the more challenged learners behind while the more accelerated learners fill their time in class (often by distracting others). Teach certainly has it’s share of challenging students and in a sense, shoulders it’s fair share of students who would otherwise be a behavioral problem in class.

      (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  7. racket says:

    “…Saro Rizzo said the district is disregarding the spirit of the law …”

    Um … it’s not a law, according to the article. It’s a guideline.

    Further, from what Prater/Robinett says, it’s a guideline applicable to a different set of circumstances.

    If true, that makes Rizzo sound as if he’s purposefully mis-understanding the situation for the benefit of the elite kids at Teach (of which he presumably has one).

    Just sayin’ …

    (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
    • Saro Rizzo says:

      racket:

      First, I do not have a child at Teach. You presume wrong. Second, Education Code Section 17387
      states, “It is the intent of the legislature to have the community involved before decisions are made about school closure.” If it is in the Education Code it is a law and a law can act as a guideline without being mandatory. Third, I assume you have a name. It would be nice of you to share it when you post. But, then again, I can understand why you don’t.

      (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down
      • racket says:

        Sorry you feel I was calling you out, Mr. Rizzo. I based my post on the fourth graph of the article, which begins, “Although not law …”

        I based my assumption that you have a kid at teach due to the similar spelling of your name and “Teach parent Vanessa Rizzo.” We all know what happens when you assume. Sorry.

        I stand by my larger point, though it is not strongly held. It is that the “top performers” at Teach are not doing their part to educate the bottom performers throughout the rest of the district.

        What if the “middle 80%” of public schools were allowed to erect competency guidelines, essentially barring admission to the Resource students. Yes, that middle 80% would have more money for everything, AT THE DIRECT EXPENSE OF THE LOW COMPETENCY KIDS.

        My position is that Teach is doing the exact same thing, only with fewer children.

        How is that fair? Not only to the low achieving kids, but also to the middle group that are subsidizing the Teach families who have opted out?

        (-5) 17 Total Votes - 6 up - 11 down
        • Babak Naficy says:

          Your points are not well taken. Teach does not get a subsidy or a special slush fund. So no one is subsidizing anyone. Second, Teach is open to everyone through lottery, so anyone can get in. Third, it is not the job of top performers to educate the bottom performers. I don’t know where that comes from. The bigger point, however, is that if Teach is a good school, then why shut it down. Why can’t have more schools like Teach, rather than none.

          (12) 20 Total Votes - 16 up - 4 down
          • racket says:

            Teach is not taking a 10% cross section of the student population. Teach is taking the star performers.

            Which means less need in the “regular” classrooms for accelerated programs. So admin at the regular schools have less need to offer accelerated programs.

            AFAIK, Teach does not have a remedial learning program. Which means the additional costs for remedial education falls on every school but Teach.

            What am I missing?

            (-4) 12 Total Votes - 4 up - 8 down
            • SLOEducator says:

              The cost of remedial education falls on the shoulders of the DISTRICT. There is quite a bit of funding for struggling students yet ZERO for accelerated learning. This disparity in funding and programmatic differences at schools should not divide our community, but rather unite us to create learning environments to meet the needs of all our students.

              You stated: “I stand by my larger point, though it is not strongly held. It is that the “top performers” at Teach are not doing their part to educate the bottom performers throughout the rest of the district.”

              I find this a bit confusing–whose job is it to educate the bottom performers, the top performers?

              (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
              • racket says:

                I must be missing something obvious.

                Since Teach does not accept slow learners, it does not have so use its scant resources for remedial classes, ergo it can use the funds for rocketry classes, etc.

                That does nothing to educate the slow learners in SLCUSD. In fact, since participants in Teach are not funding ANY remedial schooling, that burden falls on the rest of the district.

                (-2) 4 Total Votes - 1 up - 3 down
                • WhyIsMyNameAlwaysTaken says:

                  Teach does not have any funds for remedial classes. A few students have IEP’s, and they draw whatever resources that requires. The funds follow the students, therefore schools with more remediation receive funds to conduct those classes. If Teach has no remedial students, they therefore have no remedial funding. Pure and simple. According to the school report cards, Teach costs 20% LESS to educate a student than the district average. If you add the fact that kids that would otherwise be bored and disruptive do NOT impact the rest of the classroom, Teach is saving the district money.

                  Educating the “slow learners” in SLCUSD is, in fact, the burden of the district. Slow learners need an education wherever they are, and it costs what it costs. Accelerated learners need an education wherever they are, and it costs what it costs.

                  Putting accelerated learners together in one class is the exact same thing as putting remedial learners together in one class. It’s better for all the students, as the teacher can concentrate on teaching at the level that is reaching all the students at once. Each student, therefore, gets more teacher time. This is good for all the students. If I had a slow learner, I would want to send him/her to a school with special curriculum for slow learners. How is wanting an accelerated curriculum for accelerated learners any different?

                  (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
            • cerae says:

              I found the SLCUSD Accountability Report Cards to be full of all kinds of helpful side-by-side comparisons. I was very surprised to learn that the district spent 20% less per student at Teach than the district average for last academic year. I was so surprised in fact that I called the director of fiscal services to find out why that is. She listed some of the reasons being; overall fewer kids at Teach, lower average teacher salary at Teach, more students/teacher at Teach, less money from “restricted programs” allocated to Teach. To compare, BP came in at 5% less than the district average. Teach seems to be doing everything right for the students there, AND costs the district LESS per student to do it. Also, I don’t think I can ever be convinced that it is the responsibility of the accelerated learners to bring up the slower learners. That responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of parents, TEACHERS and ADMINISTRATORS.

              (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  8. bobfromsanluis says:

    Here is a situation where a bureaucratic decision has already been made, but due to public outcry, the bureaucrats are now dancing around trying to figure out how to placate those making the most noise while still achieving their objective, which is to close Teach School. The school board and the Superintendent really do not want the parents to raise concerns or object, they would be much happier if everyone simply sat down and shut up, let them go on their way of trying to reduce the education process to the lowest common denominator. Excellence in school programs? No, it is much “easier” to simply have all of the schools operate in as similar manner as possible, any possible benefits to students who are driven to achieve does not matter one iota. Everyone connected with the Teach program is dedicated to making it work as well as it can for everyone involved; that is of no concern to the Superintendent or apparently the school board either. The only way to make sure that the vote to either close or keep open the Teach program is to be vocal; let the school board members know how you feel, keep the pressure on the Superintendent’s office, do not let up.
    link here to the San Luis Coastal Board members.
    link here to the Superintendent information. Both links include embedded email links for you to contact each person listed at both links; sending an email will only take five minutes of your time. Prepare your email in a separate text program, then copy it to your email and send the same email to each individual; in fifteen to twenty minutes you will have communicated with everyone who has a say in this decision. If you want to go a little further, make a few phone calls; the numbers are at the links as well. Do we really need to shift our schools towards “the average”?

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  9. tomsquawk says:

    “the task force would create “great conversation” on the style of learning offered at Teach and other methods of fostering high-proficiency learners . The proposed task force would consist of district staff, parents, education experts and members of the community.”

    touche’

    (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down

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