by Robert W. Graeff,Ed.D., Superintendent
Ramona’s schools are welcoming all students back next Monday—and we are preparing for an extraordinary school year. Fresh with recent news of outstanding test results from the state’s comprehensive testing system, our classrooms and teachers are eager to welcome this year’s students.
In spite of last year’s well-publicized budget woes, our local school employees worked extremely hard with parents and students to make excellent gains in student achievement.
Recognizing that scores vary from site to site, our overall district STAR results show an increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in Language Arts at every grade level from Grade 2 through 9. Similarly, our Mathematics results show improvement at every grade level from Grade 3 through Grade 6, with strong increases in Algebra I and Algebra II at the secondary level.
While we still have a long way to go in ensuring that all students are learning at their fullest potential, I am personally very proud of our achievement record last year—especially when one considers that our classroom employees could easily have become distracted with budget issues, layoff possibilities and other distractions to their day-to-day responsibilities.
Local families will certainly recall how the district was forced to cut more than $6 million from our school budget last spring, resulting in eliminated positions among teachers, classified employees and administrators. Although schools have received a shot in the arm with “one-time only” federal stimulus funding under the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act, experts agree that public education will have a very difficult time again this spring in addressing continued budget deficits in the 2010-11 school year.
As we did last year, district officials intend to maintain frequent communication with staff and parents through a wide variety of media sources in order to continue our transparent handling of the various budget issues. In the meantime, we are confident that we have adopted a solid fiscal plan locally that will provide employees with the resources they need to serve our students in the best manner possible.
Still, I am keenly aware that most parents—including my wife and me—are probably more concerned with their own children than the state of the entire system. To that end, let me offer four basic tips to assist parents this year in supporting their children within our local schools:
1. Speak positively about school. Children learn to value what their parents value, and positive words in the home about teachers and the importance of completing quality work go a long way to keeping children focused on positive school habits.
2. Monitor daily work. Whether a child is in kindergarten or 12th grade, it is critically important for parents to review their daily assignments. Parental interest in their work helps keep children focused and provides parents with a daily awareness of their children’s success in their studies.
3. Maintain a high level of expectation. Regardless of how gifted students may or may not be, always expect them to perform at their highest level. In an increasingly competitive collegiate and world environment, our children’s future will require them to excel at a higher level than their predecessors in order to achieve the lifestyle they may eventually desire.
4. Supplement school work with outside reading. Even with the increasing emphasis on technology, research shows that nothing indicates future academic success better than reading skills. Parents should make every effort to ensure that their children read 20-30 minutes a day in independent reading activities. Visiting our school libraries, our public library, local bookstores, or online bookstores should become a regular habit for every household with school-aged children.
As we begin this new school year together, I urge parents to challenge themselves to make this year the best one ever in the practice of their own parenting skills. While we all navigate the perils of the current economy together in our schools, our neighborhoods and our homes, we must continue to partner together—parents, students and schools—in an effort to continue our enthusiasm for the success of our most precious resource—our children.