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March 25, 2011 > New Haven Unified School District Board Report

New Haven Unified School District Board Report

Submitted By Rick La Plante

The Board of Education on March 15 received a report showing District-wide improvement in reading as well as progress in ongoing efforts to close the achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing student sub-groups. The information was part of a report from the Division of Teaching & Learning on progress made toward the outcomes identified in the District's Strategic Plan, based on New Haven's Seven Essentials for Growth and Improvement.

District-wide, a higher percentage of students already have met or are predicted to meet their growth targets in reading this year than by the end of last year, Chief Academic Officer Wendy Gudalewicz told the Board. And compared to District students as a whole, a higher percentage of African-American students have met or are predicted to meet reading growth targets this year in fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth grades, while a higher percentage of Latino students have met or are predicted to meet reading growth targets in second and eighth grades.

In math, 249 Latino students and 81 African-American students are passing advanced classes in middle schools, up from 109 and 45, respectively, last year.

Also, 85 Latino and 51 African-American students are passing advanced classes at James Logan High School, up from 38 and 18 last year.

District-wide, suspensions and expulsions are down significantly, according to the Division's report. There were 378 suspensions during the first semester this year, down from 616 as recently as 2008-09. And expulsions of African-American and Latino students are down 67 percent since '08-09.

The Division also reported that it is meeting its objectives to review and revise the process for identifying students for the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program and to increase parent education opportunities.

Progress is being threatened, however, by a worsening budget picture. The Board approved the second-interim budget for 2010-11 and budget projections for 2011-12 and 2012-13 that include personnel and program cuts sufficient to cover a shortfall of at least $3 million next year -- and potentially more than $10 million, if Measure B is defeated and proposed state tax extensions either fail to reach the ballot or are defeated at the polls.

Measure B is a temporary funding measure to be considered by New Haven voters in a vote-by-mail election. Ballots will be mailed starting April 4 and votes may be cast until May 3. It would raise approximately $3 million. Additionally, if the Legislature grants Gov. Brown's request to place the tax extensions on the June ballot - and if voters approve - the District would recover approximately $4 million.

The Board in December authorized increasing class sizes to 30-to-1 in kindergarten through third grade, cutting the school year, eliminating stipends for after-school activities, reducing the counseling staff and media specialists and eliminating what remains of student transportation, except for special education. Additionally, the Board earlier this month approved precautionary layoff notices that would close the adult school, reduce site administration at the high schools and middle schools, close the print shop and reduce maintenance and technology services.

If Measure B passes, it would minimize increases to K-3 class sizes and reductions to the school year and extra-curricular and co-curricular stipends would be maintained. If both Measure B and the state tax extensions are passed, cuts to the school year would be further reduced, about half of the adult education program would be restored and the high school and middle school positions would be retained. Other cuts would be rescinded as possible.

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