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OJUSD Targets Student Underperformance
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Addressing the needs of underperforming subgroups of students will be the subject of a town hall meeting on Tuesday, April 3 in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District. The 6 p.m. event to be held at the Magnolia Elementary School auditorium is part of a district-wide effort to help parents help their children improve their academic performance.

With the state standards STAR tests slated to start April 18, OJUSD is attempting to engage parents prior to test time. Approximately 300 invitations were recently sent out district-wide to parents of students in kindergarten through twelfth grade who fall into subgroups and scored “below basic” or “far below basic” on last year’s STAR test. The district’s two primary subgroups are Hispanic or Latino and socio-economically disadvantaged, although there are other, smaller subgroups.

“We have to find a way, the best we can, without being offensive or intrusive, to talk about the home learning environment,” said OJUSD Superintendent Marc Malone. “…This can be a touchy subject, especially academic struggles, but we have to talk about it.”

He reported that with “No Child Left Behind,” the expectation is that 78 percent of all students have to be at a proficient level. He said that the district can’t ignore the subgroups that fall into the low-performing category.

He also noted that the underperforming students who fall into the subgroups are spread evenly throughout K-12 this year and that it’s important to address academic performance across all grade levels.

The idea for the town hall meeting grew out of the Superintendent’s Community Education Council, made up of more than 20 community members, parents, and a few school staff. One of the SCEC’s goals is to generate strategies for community outreach to the district’s subgroups and to educate them on the importance of academic achievement.

Malone said that the presentation for the meeting has been designed from a parent’s viewpoint rather than just an education viewpoint. He added that there will be three different sets of parents at the meeting, sharing their own examples of how they’ve made changes in their homes to nurture the learning environment. The purpose of the meeting is not only to help parents support their students with improving on the state standards tests, but also with achievement in regular classroom instruction.

Malone added that district office personnel and school counselors will also address the parents in attendance. Presenters will cover how to develop a learning environment in the home and how to maintain it. Malone also said that the district is trying to find ways to get the academic growth that’s happening in the classroom to also be reinforced at home and this meeting is one opportunity to talk about it.

Presenters will also provide information to the parents about where and how to tap into available resources, such as Family Support Network or the Center for Human Resources, to meet certain needs. Malone said that he hopes the town hall meeting will also create an awareness for the parents and provide them with a face and name in the school district of who to call when they want more information.

He said that there will be an interpreter at the meeting to translate to Spanish-speaking families in real time. He said that they will be provided with headsets so that everyone will hear the information in their own language without having to wait for translation. The meeting will also include babysitting for attendees and refreshments for the kids.

Malone stated that he hopes this will be an ongoing town hall meeting, year after year, to discuss academic performance with parents.