LEUSD cites more emphasis on readiness than test scores

The Lake Elsinore Unified School District (LEUSD) – a district with 22,000 registered students for the 2014-15 academic year – will be taking a new approach in how it prepares its students.

That was the message from LEUSD Board Member Tom Thomas. Thomas spoke at a Lake Elsinore Chamber of Commerce morning mixer on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

“There will be less emphasis on test scores,” Thomas said. “And more emphasis on readiness – for college and careers.”

That approach is paired with a number of other changes takingplace at the district level in order to improve the quality of student education and foster better relations with teachers.

According to Thomas, LEUSD staff received raises for the first time in five years.

“This year’s budget is $180 million; payroll is $620,000 per day,” Thomas said “Our relationship with the teachers’ union is the best it has ever been.”

He also noted that busing – one of the district’s greatest expenses and most underfunded by the state – had been largely eliminated, resulting in tremendous cost savings, and interestingly enough, increased attendance and decreased tardiness.

They will, however, be reinstituting bus routes for more long-distance rural routes and to provide safety for younger students.

Thomas stated the Common Core instruction will provide more educational equity.

“All school districts in all fifty states will teach the same curriculum at each level,” he said.

Thomas then spoke specifically about LEUSD.

“Half of our kids do not go on to college,” said Thomas. “We need to find resources to train them for vocations. These are costly programs to put together.”

He reported that Elsinore High has an automotive program and that there were special training programs for fashion and nursing at Temescal Canyon High School.

He noted that the business community could help by providing “job shadowing” opportunities for students to see first hand different career positions. Thomas stated it was important for students to have mentors outside of their homes.

Thomas noted that the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination) has a participation rate of ten percent of the schools’ populations and a 95 percent success rate of students going on to two or four-year colleges.

He noted the junior year college tours as key to providing students – many of whom might be the first in their families to have a college opportunity – a first-hand look and experience of college life. Elsinore High and Lakeside High have recently been named AVID National Demonstration Schools.

Thomas noted that the biggest changes in the LEUSD this year were in implementation of the state’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – a simplification of the state’s school finance system – is a major shift in how California funds its Local Educational Agencies (LEA’s). Unlike the previous system which tightly defined the use of general purpose funding for fifty categorical programs, the LCFF funds students equally with adjustments based on grade levels and demographic characteristics.

For LEUSD, this includes plans to provide services for low-income foster youth, English Language learners, and RFEP (Redesignated as Fluent English Proficient). This will include more teachers, support for the AVID program, extended learning times (before/after school, Saturday school), smaller class sizes, improvements in technology infrastructure and access to technology.

There will be a stronger emphasis on providing social services.

“One of the most important things we can do (is) help the parents get the kids through school,” Thomas said. “All kids can learn; it has nothing to do with economics or ethnicity. Sometimes they just need help. ”

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