The Turlock Unified School District has made a plan to better promote its Career Technical Education courses to all English learners as part of the district’s response to a report released by the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury in June.
By law, the district had 90 days to officially respond to the jury’s findings and recommendations regarding Career Technical Education. The response must include whether the district agrees or disagrees with the recommendations with accompanying explanations.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler, former Director of CTE and Program Equity Tami Truax and current director John Acha worked alongside school administrators and data systems staff to gather the data requested immediately after the jury’s report was released. Acha presented the findings and the proposed response to the Board prior to their unanimous vote.
“We're excited to share with you this report, and I say excited because this is what I enjoy most about my job: Identifying the great things that TUSD is doing already, as well as instilling change… We always need to evolve and we always have ways to improve and I appreciate the Civil Grand Jury,” Acha said.
Acha began by sharing that the district currently offers over 40 CTE courses with 31 teachers teaching them. After taking a closer look at the current state of the programs, Acha and the research team came to the conclusion that TUSD should agree with 8 of the 14 findings and recommendations.
One of the first topics listed by the SCCGJ that Acha suggest the district agree with was the fact that all English Language Learners in the district have the ability to enroll in CTE course. While that is the case, Acha and the team also agreed with the recommendation that the district can do a better job at promoting the courses to all students, including English learners. This recommendation also correlates with the finding regarding participation, as Acha agreed with the jury that enrollment tends to vary by schools and districts in Stanislaus County.
“[It’s} something we want to look into,” Acha told the Board. “Why is that? What is it that one site may be doing better versus another or what could have caused that? It’s good information to focus on.”
Acha and the team also acknowledged the jury’s finding that CTE completion rate amongst English learners is fairly low. According to data presented to the Board, the CTE course completion rate amongst English learners at Turlock High was only 10% in 2018 and 2019. At Pitman High, there was a 5% completion rate.
“My goal as the Director of CTE and Program Equity is to increase our pathway completion rates, which are called New Career Readiness rates,” Acha said.
Acha shared similar sentiments to the jury’s finding regarding graduation rates at continuation schools in Stanislaus County. Acha explained that while graduation rates varied dramatically by campus, Turlock’s Roselawn High had one of the higher rates in the county. Nevertheless, Acha believes there is always room for improvement.
Amid the long list of agreements, Acha did have some disagreements regarding the jury’s findings and recommendations.
Staying on the topic of continuation schools, Acha and his team partially disagreed with the finding that TUSD offers limited CTE programs to continuation students.
“We disagree partially here as we already as a district are incorporating some of the recommendations,” Acha said. “We already have multiple CTE courses available. At the continuation high schools, it's difficult sometimes with smaller staff just like it would be for a very smaller school, and that is a challenge, but it’s nothing you can't overcome or continue to work on.”
Another disagreement that came about was the jury’s finding that schedule conflicts limit English learners’ participation in CTE programs.
“Coming from my previous job building the master schedule at Pitman High School, I know the work that I did to reduce and limit the amount of complex issues for all students,” Acha said. “Absolutely I want every student to take every class they possibly can, but it's not possible. And it's not limited to English learners. At some point, there may just not be a way to make it work.”
Acha added that the Aeries software can usually assist in resolving schedule conflicts and that there is already an increased effort to decrease conflicts for English learners.
The SCCGJ also listed in their report that there could be eased financial burdens on students interested and participating in CTE courses, a finding that Acha and the team partially disagreed with as current policies and practices are being implemented to remove this barrier for TUSD students. There was a similar partial disagreement as it related to necessary technology. Acha explained that the devices all students are provided with can be compatible with over 130 languages, but acknowledged that steps to access those tools could be better promoted and taught.
All other findings and recommendations released by the SCCGJ were neither agreed or disagreed with as TUSD has already implemented the changes or have already motioned to make the recommended changes before the end of the current calendar year.
Now that the Board has approved the response, a CTE Task Force will be put together for this school year. The Task Force will conduct a comprehensive review of SCCGJ report with counseling and admin teams at Turlock, Pitman and Roselawn High and ultimately develop action plans to address the jury’s findings and implement reccomendations.