State flags six Visalia schools as “underperforming”

Six traditional Visalia schools were flagged as underperforming by The California Department of Education in January.

Divisadero Middle, Goshen Elementary, Houston Elementary, Pinkham Elementary, Royal Oaks Elementary, and Willow Glen Elementary were explicitly named in the report. Sequoia High was also listed, but its status as a continuation school makes it a special case as the school is designed for extra support.

The report pulls from the California School Dashboard, which rates schools and districts based on values like performance in Mathematics and English Language Arts, absent students, and suspension rates. Campuses are rated on a color scale with red and orange indicating poor performance and yellow, green, and blue meaning an average to perfect performance.

Schools that appear on the list were flagged as needing “Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI).” These are schools that have only red and orange marks on the Dashboard.

According to the report’s landing page, the list must be prepared by law. “The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires state educational agencies to determine school eligibility for comprehensive support and improvement CSI.”

The Obama administration signed ESSA into law in 2015, which updated No Child Left Behind created in 2002. The new law requires states to publicly publish a list of schools that need more support.

Visalia Unified Superintendent Dr. Todd Oto says that the district will be looking into why these schools were listed.

“We’ll be establishing a cycle of inquiry,” said Oto. “It’s our task to make these schools better.” He says schools will tackle specific ways to make sure the underperformance is remedied in the school’s School Plan for Student Achievement.

California Education Code 64001 requires a plan to be outlined and if a school or district fails to write one, the school will not receive funding for a slew of programs under California Ed. Code 64000. Affected programs would include bilingual education support, professional development programs, and school safety initiatives.

Visalia resident Jerrold H. Jensen consolidated this data and compared it to other schools in the Central Valley.

“I had concerns about Measure A and I had worked with the district from almost day one on that. I was trying to get them to look at birth rates and their own declining numbers of first-grade students which determines the number of kids you’re going to have eventually in high school,” said Jensen.

In his report, he included the graduation rates for Visalia high schools and the percentage of students who graduate who are also ready and able to transfer to a California State University or a University of California.

According to Jensen’s report, only 15% of graduates at Mt. Whitney are prepared to enter a four-year state college. For Golden West, that number is 19%; at El Diamante, that number is 33%; at Redwood, 52% of graduates are ready for higher education. The state average is 50%.

“Clearly Redwood has been packed with the best students,” said Jensen. “The priority is fixing the existing high schools now.”

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