2016-09-23 / Schools
Berylwood, Park View honored
Campuses receive state achievement awards
Title I schools are designated as such because they have high numbers of socioeconomically challenged and disadvantaged students. These schools receive special funding to help close the achievement gap.
“For me, it’s very personal to see such hardworking teachers recognized for their success,” said Scott Blough, Simi Valley school board president. “I’m just elated for their staff.”
For Berylwood, this is the first such win. In addition to this honor, the Heywood Street school won the California Gold Ribbon School Award this year—recognition the school’s principal, Robin Hunter, said Berylwood won after a visitation team dropped by his campus for review.
According to the Department of Education’s website, the Title I award is given to schools that have demonstrated exceptional student performance—including doubling the achievement targets set for them—for two or more consecutive years.
To put this achievement in perspective, at Berylwood, 53 percent of the mostly Hispanic student population is limited in English proficiency, while 80 percent of the institution’s 478 students receive subsidized lunches. The ratio of students to teachers at Berylwood Elementary is 18:1.
Hunter, who has been the school’s top administrator for five years, said he knows why his school was singled out.
“We started changing the way we were doing a lot of things at the school,” he said. “There’s been a dramatic change in how students learn to read.”
When Hunter arrived at Berylwood five years ago, he began overhauling how his faculty taught language and reading to students.
“This school had been performing very lowly for many, many years,” Hunter said.
Out went textbooks, and children began selecting their own books to read, whether fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry or graphic novels.
The kids enjoy reading more, so they’re reading more often, Hunter said.
The problem with the textbooks is that “most of the reading anthologies are just sections of stories, they’re not even whole stories,” he said. “Now the kids are reading very simple books to very high-level books.”
As a result of the kids choosing books that intrigue them, Hunter said, his pupils have gone from a 10-month reading-comprehension growth over the school year to two years’ worth of progress over the same period.
“The kids are performing very well,” Hunter said. “We’re not the highest by far, but we’re pulling way off the bottom.”
At Park View, nine out of 15 educators teach Title I classes.
Park View Principal Erin Taggart said that Hunter, who once led Park View, told her that the school had won the Title I award years ago. The current win marks the school’s first during Taggart’s three years there.
“We’ve been working to close that achievement gap at our school,” she said. “We have really worked on the programs. Our classroom teachers are working with our Title teachers, using that same common language.”
Park View also won a 2016 California Gold Ribbon School Award.
“We’re very excited about it,” Taggart said, adding that, moving forward this year, her school plans to focus more on writing complexity and language.
Berylwood’s Hunter said he’s very proud of his team, which includes literary coach Laurie Cariker, and what they’ve been able to accomplish.
“I feel great,” the principal said. “It’s not a solo job. The teachers are fantastic. They’re just doing a great job; they’re very proud of what they’re doing.”
He added that Berylwood has benefited greatly from the change of approach.
“It’s a much happier place,” he said. “(The students) are more engaged. They’re not laying their heads on the table waiting to go to recess.”