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Chatom schools falling below state averages

POSTED February 17, 2012 11:02 p.m.

Chatom Union School District released the 2010-11 round of School Accountability Report Card and it is apparent the district is struggling to improve for a variety of factors. However, Chatom's first-year Superintendent Cherise Olvera vows to turn things around for the school district.
The SARC serves as a compilation of information on schools and their respective academic performances as well as enrollment, demographic, discipline, facilities and basic financial information. The bottom line of the report cards is how the schools are performing academically, which is measured by the Academic Performance Index.
The API is an annual measure of state academic performance and progress of schools in California. Scores range from 200 to 1,000, with a statewide target of 800.
The California state average for API is 778. Both of Chatom's schools - Chatom Elementary and Mountain View Middle School - failed to reach that state average.
Mountain View posted a 777, a 20-point drop for the pervious school year's 797.
"Our goal is to get back to that and reach 800," said Olvera, who also serves as Mountain View's principal.
Chatom Elementary posted a 739, a nine-point slip from the 2009-10 school year.
The decreases come after both schools had seen dramatic improvements in prior years.
Part of the API are score assessments rating the percent of students performing at proficient or advanced capabilities in academic areas such as English, mathematics and science. At Chatom Elementary students scored 41 percent proficient in English- the state average is 54 percent. In math Chatom fell just 1 percent below the state average of 50 percent and in science 29 percent were proficient, compared to the state average of 57 percent.
At Mountain View the numbers were closer to state averages, but overall the school was ranked high compared to similar schools. On a 1 to 10 scale the school scored 10 out of 10. Similar schools take into account the demographic information of a school. For example racial makeup, the percent of English learners and the percent of socioeconomic disadvantaged students.
Olvera points to the number of English learners as one of the main reasons the district is struggling.
Of all schools districts in the Turlock area and Stanislaus County, Chatom Unified has one of the highest percentages of English learners. At Chatom Elementary 191 students out of 285 are English learners and 243 are "socioeconomically disadvantaged."
Olvera says the district is working hard to meet the needs of the student population by using various methods including specialized and small-group instruction. She also noted that all teachers in the district have an English Learner credential. In addition to classroom improvement, students are receiving further instruction with Chatom's after-school programs, increased collaboration and professional development amongst its teachers.
"We are really working hard and I think we will get those numbers up. It will be a challenge especially with our budget concerns," Olvera said.
Currently CUSD is facing a definite budget crisis next year. Cuts will likely happen in order to maintain school transportation. CUSD covers 100 square miles and about 90 percent of students take the bus to school. Schools rely on student attendance to receive money for the district budget, and in a rural district like Chatom bus transportation is paramount.
CUSD Board member Rob Santos says the challenges are enormous and cuts will have to happen in some form.
"We are in the midst of negotiating with the unions, so I can't really comment on staffing right now," Santos said. "But, we are getting hit with awful losses in transportation funding and we have to have it, so something has to give. If we don't have transportation then some kids just won't come to school as often or not at all and that would just make the budget problem worse. Chatom is a unique, resilient community. We pull together and solve problems as a community. We are made up of farmers with can do attitudes. We will be fine."

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