We are entering the spring STAR testing period in which we assess students in second through 11th grades on state tests to see what progress we have made. Since student achievement is at the forefront of our board focus goals, I am pleased to recognize the work of teachers and administrators in preparing students for the tests and encouraging students to give the tests their best effort.

Brian Sarvis

Brian Sarvis

I am hearing about preparation in all subject areas, such as students who are well practiced in reading long passages and persevering to answer all of the questions correctly. Student confidence in their ability to do well can make a big difference in their results.

The importance of student achievement is prominent in our school goals and has been a clear and consistent direction for our district. For many years we have focused on instruction and learning, achievement in the state accountability program, achievement in federal No Child Left Behind requirements, the achievement gap between white and Latino students, and equal opportunities for under-represented students. In addition, we have focused on safe, orderly learning cultures at each school and communication.

We publish board focus goals that have shown a consistent direction for a number of years, and we regularly report on our progress. Schools are clear about these goals and develop annual plans for student achievement that target these goals.

Districtwide initiatives have been in place for a number of years to accomplish these goals, including the following:

» Increased attention to learning and effective instruction

» The use of data, common assessments and continuous monitoring of student progress

» Collaborative planning in professional teams at every school

» Systematic interventions for those needing more time and support

» Specialized instruction and additional instructional time for English learners

» AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) support for students to work at higher levels

» Honors coursework to challenge higher level students

» Career-Technical Education pathways

» Ongoing professional development to support the differentiated instructional needs of all students

Through these consistent initiatives, we have made significant progress, and many schools have made great gains. We have even seen a narrowing of the achievement gap at the secondary level. I expect these efforts to continue as they have provided a great foundation for our success.

Such initiatives are described in the action plan in achieving Excellence for All, which outlines what we are doing to achieve the board focus goals and are highlighted in school plans. Click here for more information.

— Brian Sarvis is superintendent of the Santa Barbara School District.