Scripps Ranch Schools Committee (SRSC)

The Scripps Ranch Schools Committee (SRSC) does not meet in the summer. However, several decisions by the district have broad implications for students, and we want to be sure the community is aware of them as the new school year starts.

GATE Changes

School Board Trustee John Lee Evans has repeatedly noted that with the current Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) screening process, ten times more students are identified as gifted than expected based on the percentile ranking on the Raven test. The school board and superintendent have agreed that these test results are no longer sufficient for identifying gifted students and that some change is needed.

In June the board adopted new GATE identification procedures as recommended by the district’s GATE workgroup. GATE screening still will be administered to all 2nd grade students, but multiple sources of data and factors, as well as a new test, will be used for GATE identification.

The data and factors considered will include tests, teacher and parent input, economic challenges, transiency, disability, and English learner status. For 2015–2016 the Raven test will be replaced with the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), a computer-based assessment for reasoning abilities linked to academic success including verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal abilities. It is unclear how this change will impact GATE/Seminar identification rates, but due to the unusually high levels of GATE-identified students with the Raven test, fewer students are expected to be identified as “gifted.”

The GATE workgroup will monitor the results and make additional recommendations, which could include a different screening test in future years. Several board trustees acknowledged that the GATE identification and instructional practices still have room for improvement. They noted particularly that: each student’s “giftedness” is unique; it can vary during his or her lifetime; it might not be identified by this process; and it might not be supported by placement in a GATE or Seminar class. The point was that gifted assessment mechanisms should go beyond academic reasoning. At this time there is no mechanism or plan to make non-academic assessments for “giftedness.”

SBAC Test Results

The California Department of Education says it plans to release the results of the standardized test in September. Originally, the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) were expected to be released in August.

The new Common Core-aligned exam replaced the STAR test. More than three million students statewide—including those in Scripps Ranch—took the tests in the spring. State officials say that since this is the first time the new test was given, they want to be sure everything is accurate prior to the release to parents in September. As of press time, a date had not yet been announced.

District Budget

In the absence of a final state budget the board approved a district budget in June based on education funding in the governor’s May revision of the state budget. Despite substantial increased funding from the state, the San Diego Unified School District’s budget indicates three years of growing funding shortfalls: $34.6 million in 2015–2016; $94.7 million in 2016–2017; and $119.5 million in 2017–2018. These are primarily due to increased costs for employee compensation, including raises and increases in pension payments, and lowering the Transitional Kindergarten to 3rd grade class sizes to 24 children.

The district’s 2015–2016 planned solutions to the shortfalls include: revenue of $13.6 million generated by increasing enrollment in high schools and early childhood education; and increasing return rates of income survey cards, which would increase funding based on higher numbers of low-income students. Also, they hope to save $21 million in cost reductions using strategic staffing, right-sizing operations, and central office adjustments.

Subsequent school years call for $79.6 million and $104.4 million, respectively, in cost reductions through right-sizing operations. No details on the cost reductions were provided to understand the possible student impact. Meanwhile, the district is leading a charge to help those in Sacramento understand how much funding it actually takes to adequately educate a child versus what the state is providing.

LCAP Approved

State law mandates school districts create a new or revised Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) every year to show goals, plans of actions, expectations, and spending around eight priority areas. The draft 2015–2016 LCAP was released in June, and based on feedback the district received, some changes were made.

Effective communication was an area targeted for improvement. The district has committed to redesigning district and school websites to be more user friendly, as well as embracing digital communications and social media. There also will be a focus on better communication and information sharing between the 16 cluster organizations—the SRSC is our area’s cluster organization.

In addition, Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district will establish a parent and community engagement task force. The board-approved 2015–2016 LCAP, as well as more user-friendly versions, are available at www.sandi.net/lcap.

Presentations on the LCAP actions and goals are slated to occur at cluster meetings. If you would like to learn more or provide input, attend the SRSC meetings.

Next Meeting

Typically SRSC meetings are on the third Wednesday of each month during the school year at 4:30 pm in the Marshall Middle School Community Room. However, due to a conflict with Back to School Night in September, the next meeting is on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

All meetings are open to the public and the community is invited to attend. For questions, please email Jaylene Farry at [email protected]

Tamara Hurley, Legislative Analyst