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Dismal ranking for THS

Turlock High placed on persistently lowest-achieving schools list, as officials “baffled”

Dismal ranking for THS

Turlock High School is one of 188 schools listed on the preliminary list for the persistently lowest-achieving schools through California. Criteria that placed Turlock High on the list ...

POSTED March 9, 2010 11:44 p.m.

Three months ago Turlock High School was celebrating their designation by the Department of Education as the best-ranked school in the Turlock Unified School District. Now, administrators are shaking their head in confusion over a report released Monday from the same department that places the high school on a preliminary list of persistently lowest-achieving schools.

“There is nothing to lead us to understand how we are on the persistently lowest-achieving schools list,” said Dana Trevethan, Turlock High principal. “How are you identified as a persistently low-achieving school when all of your content scores are at 75 percent matching the state or passing up the state?”

For schools to be put on this list, each school is evaluated by their three-year average proficiency rate for English Language Arts and Math based on the California High School Exit Exam, their five-year average of Academic Performance Index growth that needs to have a total growth of 50 points, and their graduation rates for the past three years that must be above 60 percent, according to the preliminary identification criteria provided by the state.

Turlock High School’s three year average of proficient students tested with the CAHSEE in Language Arts is 45.6 percent proficient with 73 percent passing and 40.9 percent proficient in Math with 76 percent passing, according to Turlock High reports. Students must score a 350 on the CAHSEE to pass and a 380 to be proficient.

Over the past five years Turlock High’s API growth has totaled 49 points out of the required 50 points, according to Turlock High reports. Turlock’s current API score is 719.

“I believe THS is only one of two high schools on the list that have an API score over 700,” said Frank Lima, TUSD Board of Trustee’s president. “All of the other high schools on the list have lower API scores, and there are hundreds of schools in California that have a lower API score who are not on this list.”

The last criteria the Department of Education considers are graduation rates. Turlock High’s graduation rates for the last three years have an average of 88.16 percent, according to Turlock High reports. To be on this list, the state looked for schools with a graduation rate of 60 percent or lower.

The question swirling around the high school and the district is how did the school manage to land on the low-performing list, and based on the criteria to get on this list, most people can’t find the answer.

“I am not sure why Turlock High got on this list,” said Sonny Da Marto, TUSD superintendent. “There is some confusion and concerns about how we did end up on this list.”

Due to the lack of answers and data to back up this claim, state staff has filed a waiver to get Turlock High off of the persistently lowest-performing schools list.

The state Department of Education will approve this list while looking at waiver’s to remove or keep schools on this list on Thursday.

If Turlock High remains on this list, there will be many changes they will be forced to make required by state and federal law.

All schools on the persistently lowest-achieving schools list will be forced to undergo one of four intervention models that include the Turnaround Model, Restart Model, School Closure Model and the Transformation Model, according to the California Department of Education news release.

The Turnaround Model consists of replacing the principal, rehiring no more than 50 percent of the school’s staff, and adopting a new governance structure. The Restart Model consists of turning the school into a charter school. The School Closure Model simply closes a school down and enrolls the students into other schools that are higher achieving. The Transformation Model replaces the principal, increases instructional time and implements improvement strategies.

“I will not remove the principal or close the school,” Da Marto said. “Whether or not we make it on the adopted list, we are looking very critically at everything at Turlock High School.”

Some of the changes being worked on now are being collaborated through the Transparent Leadership Team at Turlock High. These changes will be made whether Turlock High remains on the lowest-achieving schools list or not.

The changes that the TLT is focusing on are teacher collaboration time, maximizing instructional time, academic rigor for all students, increased alignment to the adopted curriculum, student interventions and parent participation, Trevethan said. They plan to release their “cohesive systemic plan” late April.

Most administrators are shocked and confused about being placed on the lowest-achieving schools list but are willing to take on the changes to better their students.

“We are fired up to make changes to show the community how much our kids do know,” Trevethan said. “This has created a momentum and energy for us to use to put THS back on the map of effective schools.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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