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What About Reagan?

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Sept. 4, 2009

While Pearce Middle School is in administrative limbo, Reagan High School is working on a simple understanding. If staff and students can't get the school to "academically acceptable" status this year, the campus will probably close. That's frustrating for Principal Anabel Garza, because they came so close last academic year. She explained, "The big news is that we only missed the target by one student, so what we're pitching this year is that everyone makes a difference."

The educational plan, which grew great dividends last year, will stay in place this year. Now the challenge is to adapt the curriculum to the learning styles of individual students – whether they learn fastest by writing, hearing, or doing. Garza explained: "You hear the word 'rigor' way, way, way too much. What we're trying to do is get the kids to synthesize the information. You learn quicker, and it makes your brain grow."

The strategy is changing the teacher workload and requires professional support and development, provided by California-based nonprofit education services agency WestEd. Student success will be evaluated every two weeks. In addition, teachers will hold 180 minutes a week of subject-specific meetings to track success, plus 90 minutes of cross-subject meetings. The school will also host a family resource center, to assist students with everything from day care to housing. Dropout prevention and tracking will remain a challenge: Garza explained that with a roughly 40% mobile student population, "when you assemble a team that can finally handle the situation, then the children disappear." Then there's the worry about additional stress on the students. "They know, 'It could be me that makes the school close.' How can you have normalcy?"

Whatever happens, and whatever metric the state decides to use, Garza said she's sure of one thing: "These kids will learn."

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