Mountain View-Los Altos High School District Board Meeting April 2018

This meeting was notable because it showcased two methods the MVLA School District uses to try to improve student achievement. As always, it was demonstrated that while MVHS and LAHS work together, each school has its own specific approach to topics and these approaches are often dependent on the teachers leading the way. Both of these items were for information and discussion only. No action by the board was requested.

DELAC Update

Every district in the state with a substantial number of students whose first language is not English has a DELAC (District English Language Advisory Committee) that works to help those students (called English Learners, or ELs) and their families. At tonight’s meeting the board heard a detailed presentation on their work by Associate Superintendent Margarita Navarro. (Dr. Navarro was hired for the curriculum post after the retirement of Brigitte Saraff, whom experienced Leaguers remember as MVLA’s prior long-time respected curriculum guru.) This observer report covers some highlights of this detailed report. As always, interested readers may learn more by going to the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District website http://www.mvla.net/

There are three main goals of their DELAC: [1] To have communication between the District Office, schools, parents, and families to support their EL students AND for ELs to be as successful as possible; [2] To advise the district’s trustees on programs and services for ELs; and [3] To provide leadership training for parents so that they can provide meaningful feedback.

DELAC members advise on five items: [A] the Master Plan for ELs; [B] the District-wide needs assessment; [C] Goals and objectives for programs and services for ELs; [D] the Annual Language Census; and [E] Reclassification procedures and written parent notifications. (“Reclassification” refers to the process whereby an EL student is considered to be sufficiently proficient in their English language and their academic work that they no longer need extra help with their academics. Students are reclassified every year from grade one through twelve.) Tonight the focus was on items B. and C.

While Dr. Navarro noted that she was “reclassified” in 1st grade, she and all other reclassified EL students are considered “Ever ELs.” School districts work with three main profiles of ELs: Newcomers (those in the U.S. for 0-5 years), LTELs (Long-term ELs who have been in the U.S. for 5+ years and have yet to be reclassified), and RFEPs (Reclassified to Fluent English Proficient.) (The mark of a thorough reclassification process is that RFEPs do as well or better than non-ELs.)

There are 269 total ELs in MVLA – 164 at MVHS, 79 at LAHS, and 26 at Alta Vista HS. As you can surmise, MVHS is structured to have more support systems for less proficient EL students. The primary languages spoken by MVLA ELs is Spanish (by 78% students), Mandarin (by 5.5% students), Russian (by 2.3% students), and a variety of other languages (by 12.1% students). A fairly large number of LTELs are also special education students.

Trustees heard about the extensive professional development provided for MVLA teachers and staff for ELs. Additionally, related to DELAC, trustees heard of multiple activities done with and for parents. They also were told of the 2017/18 DELAC meeting topics for parent training and community building. For example, DELAC members spent one meeting learning how to analyze their child’s test score data.

After that extensive background information five DELAC members came up to the podium, one by one, to offer five recommendations to the board from their committee work. Those recommendations are: [1] Offer an academic support class for students in English Language Development (ELD); [2] Create an adult to student mentor program, especially for LTEL students; [3] Offer parent education workshops to learn about curriculum and ways to support students at home; [4] Offer field trips to universities for all EL students; and [5] Monitor the progress of EL students through “EL Learning Plan” meetings with staff, students, and parents.

Goals for 2018/19 are [A] To update the EL Master Plan; [B] Examine reclassification criteria (noting that the state of California will be publishing this; does MVLA want to adopt the state’s plan?); [C] Explore the “English Learner Road Map” (a new state policy); [D] Expand opportunities for parent training; and [E] Examine RFEP data.

Science program update

In preparation for the statewide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), trustees heard from enthusiastic MV and LAHS teachers about how they are already implementing the “hands on” and research-based NGSS model. In addition to what we consider to be the “traditional” 3-course model of science courses (biology, chemistry, and physics), our high schools offer many more options for students. Advanced Placement courses are available in Physics (AB and C), chemistry, biology, environmental science, as well as honors courses in these subjects. And, multiple science class electives are offered at each school (with different offerings at each school depending on the availability of having a teacher for them). Examples of electives are forensics, biotechnology, and robotics. Students at both of these high schools are very excited about taking lots of science classes, so much so that there is a need for more classroom space.

— Ellen Wheeler, Substitute Observer