Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Oak Hill Middle School receives funds to boost achievement

CLEARLAKE – Oak Hill Middle School will receive more than $2 million over the next several years to help reduce class sizes and boost performance.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell recently submitted to the State Board of Education a list of 488 low-performing schools from throughout California that will receive dramatically increased new funding to invest in programs aimed at boosting student achievement. Oak Hill was on that list.

The funds, according to O'Connell's office, were allocated through the Quality Education Investment Act that was passed last summer.

The act was part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by O’Connell and the California Teachers Association against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California Department of Finance for failing to properly fund Proposition 98 in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 budget years.

"The Quality Education Investment Act allows us to invest significant resources for some of our lowest-performing schools," O’Connell said. "We can change the direction of these schools by hiring new, motivated teachers, decreasing class size, improving the student-to-counselor ratio, and providing more assistance and training for existing teachers and principals.”

The Quality Education Investment Act provides $2.7 billion over seven years to the selected schools, O'Connell's office reported.

When the Act is fully implemented by fiscal year 2008-09, the funds will be distributed on a basis of $500 per pupil for grades kindergarten through third, $900 per pupil in grades fourth through eighth, and $1,000 per pupil for grades ninth through 12th. In the initial funding year (fiscal year 2007-08), the amount distributed to schools will be slightly lower.

Schools eligible for the new Quality Education Investment Act funding were elementary, secondary, and charter schools that ranked in the lower deciles of 1 or 2 as determined by the 2005 Academic Performance Index (API) base.

Oak Hill's 2006 Academic Performance Index score was 620, the second-lowest score in the district.

Oak Hill, which has grades sixth through eighth, will receive $332,971 for six years, with a smaller amount the first year, said Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Louise Nan.

Beginning in the 2007-08 academic year, Nan said the school will start receiving funds for startup and planning purposes.

“The main focus of the grant is to reduce class size to 25 or fewer students and provide professional development,” she said.

The professional development includes 40 hours of training per teacher, she said.

The school's contract limit is current 32 students per teacher, said Nan. “We staff at around 29 to 1.”

Class sizes vary depending on the subject area, said Nan, with physical education classes having the largest enrollments.

The school must undergo academic reviews of test scores, and meet specific goals over the first three years of the grant in order to remain eligible for the funds, Nan explained.

At the end of seven years, the district must be prepared to “ramp down,” said Nan, which would include going back to regular class sizes.

“That could result in a layoff of staff,” she said, although normal staff attrition – such as through retirement – could reduce staff without layoffs.

The Quality Education Investment Act, said nan, is “an experiment in adequate funding,” with the state interested in seeing if more money really works in solving the problems of certain schools.

“If there is a strong difference, perhaps the legislature will see its way clear to continue funding the program in the long run,” she said.

As to why Oak Hill has been a lower-performing school, Nan said the district has been exploring that question.

“We've just completed a complete review through a district school liaison team,” she said.

The school district's board recently approved the team's recommendations, and will begin implementing them in the 2008-09 school year.

One of the primary recommendations suggests breaking up Oak Hill into a group of smaller “learning communities,” a process Nan said would have taken place even without the Quality Education Investment Act funds. Those changes at Oak Hill will begin next fall.

The learning communities will be established within each grade level and will include the core academic areas of math, science, history, social science, and language arts, according to the recommendations.

Teams of teachers will share the same group of students throughout the day in order to create a “school within a school,” the plan says. Focus will be placed on creating a culture of success for all students, and teachers will be trained in strategies aimed at engaging students in particular grades and subjects, the plan says.

Staff culture will be encouraged to create a culture of “Our Kids” vs. “The Kids,” which will include adding student activities and celebrations, mentoring programs between grades, social skills classes, repairing the school's exterior in time for the new school year, increase a feeling of safety at the campus through a perimeter fence, and coordinating community volunteer activities at the school, according to the report.

Schools that submitted applications were then randomly selected using a process that accounted for statutory requirements for geographic and grade-level distribution.

Up to $2 million will be allocated to county offices of education across the state to annually monitor the implementation of this investment program in funded schools.

Upper Lake High School Principal/Superintendent Patrick Iaccino had reported earlier this year his intention of applying for the funds, however, that school wasn't listed among the recipient schools. Iaccino could not be reached for comment for this article.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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