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Turlock High puts learning on fast track
Turlock High API pic1
Turlock High teacher Scott Johnson leads an Algebra 2 class on Friday. Turlock High made huge gains in its state test scores, something Principal Dana Trevethan attributes to the hard work of teachers and students. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

During the morning announcements on Friday, Turlock High principal Dana Trevethan read the answers submitted by students to Thursday’s “Question of the Day.”

The question: Where did Turlock High rank among Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin and Tuolumne county high schools in regards to the recently released academic performance index scores?

The answer: seventh.

After reading the correct answer over the school’s public address system, Trevethan went on to list the rank, school name and API score of all 48 high schools in the four-county area.

“Turlock High students, you have every reason to celebrate and thank your teachers for preparing you so well for the test,” Trevethan said to end her announcement.

This recognition of student and teacher achievement and comparison to area schools is just one example of how Turlock High has raised the expectation of success and then lived up to that expectation, as the school saw a 30-point API growth going from a 2010 score of 752 to a 2011 score of 782.

Trevethan attributed the rapid improvement in test scores to a lot of hard work — by everyone.

“Our teachers have probably never worked harder in their careers in creating engaging and purposeful lessons, truly,” she said. “Secondly, we’re holding every single person on campus accountable for meeting higher expectations.”

Turlock High has always strived for excellence, and over the past 10 years the school has gained 154 points of growth in its API score — going from a score of 598 in 1999 to 752 in 2010. But something happened in March 2010 that put the school’s academic improvement plan into overdrive: Turlock High was placed on the persistently lowest-achieving schools list by the State Board of Education.

Turlock High was eventually taken off the list after the Turlock Unified School District requested a waiver, but the effects of that, however temporary, label were longer lasting.

“That’s what got the momentum started. It created an urgency to refocus and work together,” Trevethan said. “This was Turlock High School’s five-year plan in became our six-month plan for the 2010-2011 year. We moved it to the fast track.”

The plan included specific strategies aimed at improving the learning process. Teacher collaboration was given a priority and Professional Learning Communities were established. These PLCs are groups of educators who all teach the same subject or grade level. They have mandatory meetings once a month and are encouraged to have informal discussions on improving the way they present curriculum.

Turlock High also relocated many of their classes in the 2010-2011 year, so that same subject instructors would be in close proximity to their peers.

“Teachers have opportunities to collaborate informally and formally,” Trevethan said. “It really heightened people’s sense of sharing ideas.”

Another strategy implemented at Turlock High was the merging of college preparatory classes and career classes. Every class at Turlock High is now college preparatory. Special education students are included in the algebra and English-language arts classes and given extra assistance through strategic intervention.

A homework club was created and test prep sessions are now offered through the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) Boot Camp. Just recently, the school started the Turlock High Academic Boosters club, with the goal of gaining the support of parents, students and staff to reach an API score of 800.

While explaining all the changes at Turlock High, however, Trevethan kept coming back to one theme — teamwork.

“You can’t gain 30 points within one year without true refocus with an entire team striving to bring about improvement,” she said.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.