Tuesday, November 30, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 39

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 30th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 18

Santa Maria-Bonita School District works to increase student equity

By Malea Martin

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District hopes to increase equity between its students by putting a preschool at every elementary school site and making sure kids are progressing by at least one grade level every year.

These are among the six goals and priorities in support of equitable student outcomes that Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Melissa Dutra presented during a June 23 board meeting

With more than 75 percent of students below grade level, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District is looking to address equity issues.

“We’ve learned that COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on students and our families,” Dutra said, which has only exacerbated some of the gaps and learning loss that already existed.

The first district equity priority is that students will perform at proficient or beyond in all academic areas. But this goal, Dutra said, is a lofty one.

“This is our ultimate goal, but we also know that we’ve got to build to that,” she said. “‘All’ can be so far away when we’re looking at 75 percent of our kids are far away from that right now. We want to have some goals that are attainable every single year.”

With more than 75 percent of SMBSD students below grade level, Dutra said “there’s also some real gaps around some of our student populations.” As SMBSD Coordinator of Assessment and Accountability Laurie Graack presented at a March 24 special meeting earlier this year, Mixteco-speaking and English-learning students in the district have historically seen lower success than their peers. 

Another goal of the district is that every student progresses by at least one grade level each year. Dutra explained that the goal is “at least” one grade level because some kids need to improve by more than that to get up to speed.  

“These kids who are behind, we have to not only catch them up by a year, they have to double down and make up ground every single year in order for us to actually close the gap for those kids,” she said.

The district’s also looking at ways to address inequities as early in a child’s education as possible, such as through preschool.

“This is so important because we know early education is so critical for our students. … This is also an equity and access issue,” Dutra said. “We don’t want it to be that you get a preschool program because there happens to be one at your neighborhood school, versus you don’t.”

The district added two more preschool programs this year at Libbon and Liberty elementary schools, and are adding one next year at Arellanes. With a goal to put a preschool at every elementary school, the district has five more to go. The majority of the preschool programs are bilingual, Dutra added. 

At the June 23 meeting, the district unanimously approved a First Five Early Learning Grant, which will help move these efforts along.

“The board had approved us applying for this grant, this is saying that we’ve now received the grant,” Dutra said before the vote.

The grant will give the district $150,000 per year for four years to support its preschool programs.

Dutra said that from August to October this year, the district will be undergoing a student equity audit. The audit will look at the opportunities students have to master grade-level content, the factors keeping students out of class, the grades earned in class, and the opportunity to have teachers who reflect students’ identities. From there, the district plans to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion road map to help “define and align” its equity work, Dutra said.

All these efforts are in pursuit of students moving a minimum of one grade level each year.

“This is our legal obligation,” Dutra said. “That when kids are under our charge, we move them a grade level every year.” 

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