scores, encouraging project-based instruction and developing common
definitions of what constitutes a grade.
The math focus is the first part of a larger effort to assist
Newport-Mesa students who routinely bring home D and F grades. While
aimed at all secondary-school students, the measure particularly
targets English learners.
"This is not something that will happen overnight," Kendall said.
"We see this as a multiyear initiative."
With the federal government raising the bar on standardized test
scores, such intervention may prove necessary. Last year, the No
Child Left Behind Act required that 23.7% of students score as
proficient or above on math -- nearly double the percentage from the
year before. As a result, the government downgraded many Newport-Mesa
schools -- even schools that posted large increases on state test
scores -- for not having met the federal standard.
Newport-Mesa has eight schools on the program improvement list,
which identifies economically disadvantaged schools that fail to meet
federal requirements for two years in a row.
"We just want to help kids jump higher to meet that high bar
that's been put out there," Kendall said.
In May, the state Department of Education visited Newport-Mesa's
secondary campuses to monitor programs for English-learner students.
The district has worked closely with the state over the last several
years as it has enhanced its language arts programs. After the May
visit, the state asked the district and schools to submit plans to
bolster their math programs as well.
Kendall responded by outlining a series of goals for the district,
including an expansion of the Read 180 program and a data group to
ensure that students are placed in the correct classes. Each school
must submit a preliminary action plan to the state by Oct. 15.
Some sites, inspired by the state's visit, have already added new
services for their English-learner students, both in math and other
subjects. Costa Mesa High School added an English-language
development class for this fall, while Ensign Intermediate School
initiated new social science classes for incoming seventh-graders.
Newport Harbor High School began an English-learner task force for
all grade levels and created a small learning community for
ninth-graders. The school usually operates on a block schedule, in
which students alternate classes each day, but the new program allows
ninth-graders to study algebra on a daily basis.
To augment the small learning community, the school's foundation
paid for the hiring of new bilingual aides. Neil Malkus, Newport
Harbor's English-learner coordinator, said many students at the
school badly needed the extra measures.
"How effective it is, we really won't be able to know until the
quarter," Malkus said. "But I can say now that a lot of our
ninth-graders and English-learners are not prepared to succeed in an