Washington School wins $825,000 in awards

Washington School wins $825,000 in awards

Improved academic performance earns certified staff $25,000 each

by Mark McDermott

The teachers at Washington School received unexpected good news on Tuesday when they learned that they have been awarded $25,000 each as part of the state-run Certified Staff Performance Incentive program. The awards are given certified staff in schools that have shown the greatest improvement over the course of two years in their Academic Performance Index results, based largely on gains in Stanford 9 test scores last year.

Jeff Bordofsky, the principal at Washington School, said that the news came as a big surprise. "We’ve got a terrific staff, no doubt about it," he said. "But this was still unexpected."

Although the purpose of the $100 million program is to provide greater incentive for lower-ranking schools to improve their academic standards, Bordofsky was quick to point out that he and his staff aren’t in it for the money. "Folks need to know that we really do things because that is our job, not to earn money prizes," he said. "We like to teach, and this is just an add-on. We are happy that it is happening, but it not our main reason for existing as teachers."

Bordofsky shared the credit for the school’s improved API results with the Redondo Unified School District. "We really have to credit our school district," he said. "All of the schools did really well, and that’s because there is a district-wide focus on teaching teachers strategies that work in the classroom. Our district provides resources that we have taken advantage of."

Some of the distinguishing characteristics of Washington School in recent years has been its proactive approach with struggling students and its emphasis on parental involvement. The school has a learning center dedicated to at-risk children, a "Homework Club" designed to assist students who have trouble completing homework, and a program that enlists parent and senior volunteers. Each parent and child also signs a contract based on the student’s goals for each school year.

"I really think that this staff has very high standards for student learning, and I think the kids are really rising to the occasion," said Bordofsky.

More than 12,000 school staff in positions requiring certification by the state--including teachers, principals and vice principals, school counselors, nurses, librarians and computer technology specialists--will receive these first-ever incentives. The top level $25,000 awards will go to each of 1,056 staff at the most improved schools, while bonuses of $10,000 and $5,000 will be awarded to nearly 11,000 staff at other schools showing improvement. Washington School has 33 certified staff.

Redondo Union exit scores

Results of the first-ever California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) were released last week, and students at Redondo Union High School scored higher than the state average. All students must take the CAHSEE to receive a high school diploma, beginning with the class of 2004. The tests, which were administered to ninth graders last spring, consists of two components, English Language Arts and Mathematics. Though the tests were voluntary for students this time around, 534 out of the 557 enrolled ninth graders chose to take the test, with 78 percent passing the English component and 61 percent passing Mathematics. Statewide, 64 percent of students passed the English component, while 44 percent passed Mathematics.

"We are fairly pleased," said Dr. Shelley Weston, the principal at Redondo High. "People need to remember that it’s an exam taken in the ninth grade year, but intended to test what students have learned in high school."

Weston noted that high school students are facing an unprecedented amount of testing. "I must admit we do an awful lot of testing at the high school level," she said. "We’ll administer 40 days of testing here. Not all the students will take all those tests, but we will administer that many tests."

Weston shied away from criticizing the process, but did say that she sometimes wished it could be simplified. "I’d like for us to pick one or two of these tests," she said. ER