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  • Thursday, January 26, 2012


    Grade Inflation Series: PART 2

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?
    Part 2
    Palo Verdes Peninsula Unified
    CST Incentive Program dividing community

    While Orange Unified’s El Modena High School California Standards Test (CST) Incentive Program is being ignored by the Orange Unified School Board and Administration, the CST Incentive program in Palo Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has been the focus of a community backlash on both sides of the issue. The PVPUSD School Board has found itself caught in the middle of a community crisis it had no say in developing, but has tried to deal with as problems in the school’s ill-designed program began to become evident across the close-knit well-to-do community.

    Similar to El Modena High School’s program, the PV High School program developed and initiated by the school’s administration without district approval, first split the high school's staff as the school’s administration pushed the program. Then the PV High School program’s “grade-boosting” reputation caused wide-spread community concern of “equity” and required school board to take action to revoke the school's program in July 2011. Now the school board is faced with a push back on its revoking the program and finds itself becoming as controversial as the ill designed program it and district staff had no say in developing.

    The Palo Verdes High School CST Incentive Program has caused a firestorm in this small close-knit community. Blindsided by the controversy and problems coming to the forefront, in July of 2011 the program was revoked by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School Board when the PVSPU Superintendent and Board were hit by a barrage of complaints about a policy they did not approve. Parents and educators from the cross town rival school, Palo Verdes Peninsula High School, as well as parents from Palo Verdes High School complained about the equity of the program to the school board who revoked the program in a special meeting in the summer. PVSPU Superintendent Walker Williams was widely quoted as calling the system “not totally equitable”, while the PVPUSD Board President Barbara Lucky stated that the Board was not fully informed about the program. Now the controversy has returned with some in the school wanting the Board of Education to reverse its vote to revoke the program. The Board has directed the high school's staff to try and come to a consensus before taking further action.

    Among the concerns that came to light is a change in a senior student’s grade from their 10th grade year (based on a CST Score that year) that allowed that senior student to become the high school’s Valedictorian. The prestige of Valedictorian has enormous consequences. As an example, California State University, Long Beach gives any Valedictorian who selects CSULB a full scholarship. The fallout from the grade change-two years after the fact-that led to the Valedictorian fiasco and the fact that the PVPUSD School Board was not informed of the program, led PVPUSD Board President Barbara Lucky, PVPUSD Superintendent Williams and parents to publicly question the program.

    PV High School Principal Dr. Nick Stephany however has publicly defended the program, putting him at odds with the school board and the Superintendent. The principal cites the CST Incentive as one of the programs in an arsenal of programs that PV High School used to get their API Score to 898. While the principal has also defended the program by stating that only 5 percent of the students have boosted their grades using the program he also acknowledges that because of so many new programs at PV High School, nothing can be directly attributed to any one for the school's increase in API. However, parents and faculty point out that cross town rival PVP High School also increased its API score to 898 without the CST Incentive program or the controversy. The program has also divided the staff at PV High School as well. While the school board has directed the staff to come to a consensus for the school board to consider, with the controversy in the open and community-wide, the staff appears even more divided.

    In addition, Board members under advice from district counsel were concerned about possible exposure of the district to an ongoing American Civil Liberty Lawsuit (ACLU) lawsuit over the use of fee-based Advanced Placement (AP) tests and the grade-boosting based on AP testing results. That issue is yet to be addressed.

    None of the issues that PVPUSD is dealing with have yet developed in the case of Orange Unified’s El Modena High School’s CST Initiative Program. In comparison El Modena’s less thought out CST Program has even more troubling attributes than the PV High School program has- as this series will continue to examine.

    LINK to PART 1: PART 1

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?Is an investigative news series of
    Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    WATCH FOR Part 3 Of Orange Net News newest investigative series:

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control?

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012


    Surridge elected Orange Unified Board President

    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE
    a news service of Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Independent insight into OUSD

    Surridge elected Orange Unified Board President
    One year after being elected to the Orange Unified School Board by defeating former trustee Kimberly Nichols, Trustee Tim Surridge was elected as Orange Unified School Board President on a split 4-2-1 vote. Surridge was nominated by John Ortega just a moment before Trustee Diana Singer nominated Trustee Dr. Alexia Deligianni for the position. On the vote for Surridge, Deligianni abstained, with Trustees Kathy Moffat and Diana Singer voting No. Surridge voted for himself and was joined by Trustees John Ortega, Mark Wayland and outgoing OUSD Board President Rick Ledesma giving Surridge the majority vote. Deligianni was then elected Board Vice President on a 7-0 vote and Wayland was again voted Board Clerk on a 7-0 vote.

    In parting comments, Ledesma reflected that he had started the year with Superintendent Dr. Renae Dreier, and was ending the year with Superintendent Michael Christensen, praising both of them. He went on to then describe the OUSD Board’s imitative to address the district’s surplus properties as a source of income stating the district was looking to “maximize value" of the under and unused parcels it owns. He also warned that some “media and gadflies may not like some of these decisions” and stated he was committed to getting value from those properties (see item 12 C below).

    For his part, new President Tim Surridge reflected on the California School Boards Association annual convention, this year held in San Diego. Surridge stated he took the keynote speaker’s message of telling positive stories of local schools to heart. He pledged to spend the year of his presidency telling positive stories about Orange Unified.

    OUSD Budget certified Positive
    It wasn’t long before the first case of positive news was heard. OUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Joe Sorrera reported that despite the now all but certain State of California budget “trigger cuts”, OUSD would be able to absorb the $8.1 million in anticipated revenue shortage without further program cuts by extending the present cost-saving measures already in place.

    Later, OUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources reported on the required R-2 Administrative Ration report required by the State of California of every school district. The report is to make sure that school districts are compliant with mandated administrative to teacher acceptable ratios. OUSD, which over a 5 year period has had the lowest ratio of any Orange County Unified District, continued to post a very low administrative to teacher ratio in the current report. Allowed 8 certificated administrators per 100 credentialed teachers under the current formula, OUSD would be allowed about 87 certificated administrators. Currently (not including percentages of the two charter schools and federally funded positions) OUSD has 66 certificated administrators, falling far below the allowable number and ratio.

    INSIDE the January 19 OUSD Agenda
    Closed Session Agenda Item 4A: discussion of Meadows Construction Services Inc. v Orange Unified School District. In 2008 the firm had been awarded the modernization contract for Sycamore Elementary School. In 2009, two phases (#5 & 6) were terminated by OUSD decreasing the contract and days of constriction.

    Closed Session Agenda Item 4 D: Discussion of the Superintendent’s evaluation instrument

    Action Item 12 B
    ( Agenda page 5): in dealing with the ‘trigger cuts” OUSD is requesting a continuation of the waivers for two more years to the California Education Code it received for the school years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. The annual savings to the district is projected to be $1.9 million annually.

    Action Item 12 C (Agenda page 6): Public Hearing on waiver to sell or lease Killerfer site surplus property site. OUSD is seeking a waiver from state requirements outlining the process for selling or leasing property that a district may not receive the highest price. OUSD is seeking to determine “what constitutes the most desirable bid, set its own terms and conditions, and remove the requirement that oral bids be accepted”.

    Former Superintendent Godley’s Retirement Bonus
    Running total (beginning 8/2008)

    * The Godley Retirement Bonus presented here is an estimate of the amount in “bonus retirement” accrued since the Superintendent’s retirement on 6/30/08 using a 6% lifetime formula calculated here at $1210 a month since 8/08. The actual retirement plan the former OUSD Superintendent opted to take is not public information and the figures presented are only as an estimate of the taxpayer costs after the OUSD trustees voted against an amendment to exclude Godley from the retirement program. The on-going estimated figure is presented as a reminder to the community of the high cost in educational tax dollars the OUSD Board vote to allow the former Superintendent to participate in the 6% retirement incentive cost the OUSD education community in tax dollars. Godley retired from OUSD on June 30, 2008 after he worked for the school district for a little over five years.

    NEXT BOARD MEETING January 19, 2012
    Next OUSD Board Meeting Thursday Jan 19, 2012, 2011 -OUSD BOARD ROOM
    CLOSED SESSION- 5:30 pm
    OUSD Regular Session: 7:00 pm
    For more information call the OUSD Superintendent’s office at 714-628-4040
    For budgeting questions call Business Services at 714-628-4015
    ORANGE Unified Schools INSIDE Independent insight into OUSD
    is an independent news service of /O/N/N/
    “Independent Local Insight”

    WATCH FOR Orange Net News newest investigative series:

    Orange Unified’s Grade Inflation Out of the Box or Out of Control
    Part 2

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