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Lindsay Unfied School District, California

Page history last edited by nslocum@aurora-institute.org 8 years, 4 months ago

From It's Not a Matter of Time: Highlights from the 2011 Competency-Based Learning Summit:


Lindsay Unified is located in the central San Joaquin Valley in the state of California and serves just over 4,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12. The district has a large Hispanic/Latino (89.8%), socio-economically disadvantaged (75.0 %), English Language Learner (52.4%), and migrant (28.6%) population. Lindsay is in an agricultural area in which many residents are employed in farm labor. Most residents speak Spanish at home and the average adult education level is fifth grade. After many years of low achievement, the district recognized that it could not dramatically improve achievement within the constraints of the traditional system. Thus, the LUSD partnered with Schwahn Leadership Associates, Marzano Research Laboratory, and the Reinventing Schools Coalition to shape a performance-based educational system that would transform the way schooling is done in LUSD.


 Tom Rooney, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, described LUSD’s journey to a performance-based system. The first step was to create a District Strategic Design that was owned by all stakeholders and would serve as the foundation for transforming the district into a high-performing, performance-based system. During a district-wide community meeting in May 2007, it was discovered that all stakeholders essentially wanted the same thing for their children. With community support, LUSD developed a set of guiding principles that included the belief that students learn in different ways and in different time frames. Immediately the question was raised: Why doesn’t our education system honor this basic principle about how and when our children learn?  


Working with the teachers, administration, students, and parents from different income levels, a set of lifelong learning standards were developed that describe the Lindsay graduate as a person who in difficult situations sets personal goals, monitors their own progress, is a globally responsible citizen, and embraces the power of cultural diversity. The district developed academic units of study in all content areas in K–12 that clearly defined the knowledge and skills required of Lindsay learners. These units of study, referred to as Measurement Topics, were developed in consultation with Marzano Research Laboratory and were fully implemented in Fall 2009. The LUSD Measurement Topics are based on the California state standards and are supported by a comprehensive assessment system using multiple measures so that the LUSD learning community can “guarantee” what learners will know and be able to do before graduating from Lindsay High School.


The decision to roll out a performance-based system first at Lindsay High School in Fall 2009 was based on the fact that the principal of that school fully embraced the vision of performance-based education and was ready to take on the leadership responsibilities. The performance-based system was introduced to the incoming ninth grade class of that school year and learners in that class were required to demonstrate specific competencies in each unit of study prior to advancing to the next unit. Initially, students liked the idea of “learning at their own pace,” but many students realized in April 2010 that the school was serious about having them demonstrate competencies and there was a “mass scramble” to demonstrate mastery near the end of that year. After the first year, over one quarter of the ninth graders didn’t complete the required competencies and were required to begin their sophomore year where they left off when their freshman year ended. By this time, the learners began to understand the performance-based system and the rigorous learning that was now expected of them. LUSD has rolled out the standards-based approach using the accordion method, introducing it in seventh grade and rolling it up to the tenth grade in the fall of 2010, with plans for having a K–11 performance-based system in place by the fall of 2011.


 Rooney cautioned participants that they had to be ready to “blow out the norms of the master schedule at the secondary level.” In order to be responsive to learner needs, a school would have to “reshuffle students throughout the year. Some will work independently, some electronically, some with a teacher. Sometimes it requires organizing students homogenously by level.” Online learning can provide the flexibility to students that need remediation or want to move ahead.


After one year, Lindsay High School had the highest growth among all the schools in the district, with an impressive 45-point Academic Performance Index (API) gain. The highest performing students were the ninth graders, the same learners who engaged in performance-based education. Preliminary and non-public results from the Spring 2011 census assessment for all tenth graders showed that Lindsay High School had a second year of high academic gains, far exceeding the 45-point gain in 2010. As LUSD continues to roll out the approach, more data will be generated, providing a better understanding of the dynamics of a true performance-based system.






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