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January 20, 2004 > State Department of Education commends FUSD program quality

State Department of Education commends FUSD program quality

by Gary Leatherman, Communications Director

A team of nine program specialists from the California Department of Education commended the Fremont Unified School District on Friday (Jan. 9) for its outstanding service to students in 11 separate programs. The commendations were presented as part of the final report of the Coordinated Compliance Review, which CDE conducts on all California local education agencies every three years.

The CCR team spent the week of Jan. 5-9 visiting schools, poring over records and interviewing staff, students and parents to evaluate the quality of FUSD program services. CCR team leader Jerry Kilbert said the team members were very impressed with the dedication to the students that was evident among all staff at every school site they visited.

"Children are the heart of the district," he said. "Every member of the team had delightful interaction with students. They are eager to learn. They want more of everything."

Kilbert said the atmosphere at every school site they visited was upbeat and positive. "Every kid was proud of the school they attend," he said. "Every one thought their school was the best. They have a great sense of connectedness to their schools."

He said CCR teams routinely ask students whether there is some caring adult at school they can talk to if they have a problem. He said every child interviewed could name more than one and most named six or seven. He told the FUSD staff attending the review, "You have built a tremendous caring environment. We don't see that in every school district we visit. You are doing a wonderful job."

Kilbert also noted that the parents the team interviewed were grateful for the quality of education their children are receiving and for the responsiveness of school staff to parents' concerns. "The parents had the sense that they are being listened to," he said. "They know that schools do not follow every recommendation, but they do hear them."

The CCR team evaluated programs and procedures for adult education; career and technical education and civil rights; child development; the California School-Age Families Education Program; educational equity; gifted and talented education; improving teacher quality; programs for English learners; safe schools and drug, alcohol and tobacco education; uniform complaint procedures and integrated program items.

The team selected Cabrillo Elementary, Walters Junior High and Kennedy and Irvington high schools for their site visits. The report said, "These school communities are filled with students who value diversity, enjoy learning, seek out ever more challenging educational opportunities, appreciate their teachers, possess a zest for life, experience leadership opportunities, engage each other and their teachers in quality dialogue, and who know they are prepared for the future."

The overall conclusion of the report was that FUSD is doing an exemplary job of providing a high-quality education by aligning curriculum to state standards, providing all students equal access to quality programs, involving families in education and providing multiple supplemental, enrichment and intervention programs for all students. The team specifically commended the Adult School for its use of technology in instruction, staff development and distance learning; Cal-SAFE for its outreach efforts to other districts; career and technical education programs for providing equal access to all students, and the district for closing the achievement gap between high and low achieving students and for providing comprehensive programs to help teachers learn to teach state standards.

They also commended Cabrillo for its strong partnership with the city of Fremont, Walters for its commitment to science education, both high schools for their senior project programs, Irvington for it's no "D" grading policy, and the Pupil Services Department for its youth development strategies, science based drug and gang curriculums and integrating a name calling component into the California Healthy Kids Survey. Kilbert noted that that innovation will be a model he will recommend for statewide adoption.

Of course the team identified some areas that need improvement. They said career and technical education programs need to track the academic progress of students more closely and identify the correlation of spending to academic achievement.

They identified a number of areas for improvement for programs for English learners, including identification and classification of students, staff training, placement of students in appropriate programs, notification of parents of program options and monitoring of progress. They also pointed out several areas in which communications should be improved, including communication between staff and site administrators about programs, communication to parents in multiple languages and general notification to the community of the results of the Healthy Kids Survey.

"When we find an area of non-compliance, it doesn't mean someone made a big mistake," Kilbert said. "It just means it is something we have to address together." He noted that the number of areas of non-compliance was very low for a district the size of Fremont.

Robert Gomez, who was the team evaluator for the English learners program, also pointed out that non-compliance is not synonymous with a lack of effort. "We never once felt that you weren't trying very hard to meet the needs of English learners," he said. He said it requires a concentrated and coordinated effort in any school district to bring the English learner program into compliance.

Superintendent John Rieckewald told staff that he has been involved in a number of CCR's in his 34 years in education. "This is an excellent CCR," he said. The lack of non-compliance items and the high number of commendations is not standard. You need to know that. This is a validation of what has been going on in Fremont for years. We are not arrogant, but we are confident that we are doing pretty well in addressing the needs of our diverse students and community."

Kilbert agreed. "This is a heartfelt commendation," he said. "This team was very impressed. You do a wonderful job of reaching out to students and the community. There is a little room for improvement, but this is a quality, quality district."

 
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