2009 High School Application Part II - California School

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					                                California Department of Education

                   California School Recognition Program
                 2009 Distinguished High School Application
                                   Part II

                             Signature Practice 1 Overview
CDS Code:           37-68338-3730884
County Name:        San Diego County
District Name:      San Diego Unified School District
School Name:        Scripps Ranch High School

1. Name of Practice:    A Renaissance in English Learning

2. Which P-16 Council theme(s) does this practice address?

          Access           Culture and Climate          Expectations        Strategies

3. Which element(s) of Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century are reflected in this

          Using standards-based education to raise the bar
          Understanding standards, assessment, and accountability
          Creating the context for standards-based education
          Implementing standards based instruction and assessment
          Initiating instruction and assessment of local outcomes
          Supporting student academic success
          Creating structural supports for student success
          Promoting family and community supports for student success
          Developing academic literacy for student success
          Using data for continual improvement

4. How long has this practice been in place?      3-4 years

5. Is this practice schoolwide or targeted?             Schoolwide          Targeted

   If targeted, describe the target population:

California Department of Education                         2009 Distinguished High School Application

                                     Signature Practice #1
                               “A Renaissance in English Learning”

Rationale/Basis of the Practice

        The American poet, Emily Dickinson, once wrote “I dwell in possibilities.” This opening
line to her famous poem has become the mantra of our English Department. Each of the
twenty teachers in our department has taken this line to heart in the way in which each looks at
our mission to help our students become masters of reading and writing. Our discipline is a
large, complex tapestry of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. During the four years that
our students study with us, we want them to read and work with diverse authors and their
writings, and we want them to write from different perspectives in a variety of modes. Finally,
we offer them opportunities to share their thoughts orally with partners, through panel
discussions, in small-group settings, and in full-class arenas.

       During the sixteen years since our school opened, the English Department’s goal has
been to be the finest English department in the school district. Over these past two decades,
we have experienced a variety of challenges and changes. As our demographics changed
with the arrival of more disadvantaged students to our campus, we began to reflect on our
instructional practices and our focus, and made concerted efforts to help more students
become powerful readers and writers. While we don’t feel that there is one specific strategy
that has led to our students’ growth in the language arts, we know that our focus on and
implementation of a structured and sequenced writing program for our entire school population
has assisted our students in their overall growth, as witnessed by gains on the CST as well as
the impact on our school’s API scores. This signature practice, then, will be called “A
Renaissance in English Learning,” and this document will outline our philosophical approach
as well as key strategies that have worked in harmony to help our students grow as learners,
and eventual masters, of language.

Description of the Practice

       Our philosophical approach is that all students can grow into effective readers and
writers. While we know that students come to us from middle school with a variety of strengths
and weaknesses, we know that by introducing them to powerful writers from world, British, and
American literature, we can help them become the readers and writers they need to be for
success in the modern world. We want our students to take risks intellectually and to
challenge themselves by experiencing what the great authors have to tell us about the human
condition. Moreover, by developing a powerful, sequenced writing program, we know that by
the time our students graduate from our school, they will have become sophisticated writers
ready for the intellectual rigors that await them in the future.

       We have a dynamic faculty of English teachers on our campus. Of the twenty current
English teachers, 75% possess a master’s degree, either in English or curriculum and
instruction. Several of our teachers have also taught at the university level in colleges of
education. At least 50% of our faculty has twenty or more years of classroom teaching
experience, 25% have eleven to nineteen years of experience, and 25% are relatively new to
the profession, with one to five years of experience. This mix, then, allows veteran teachers

California Department of Education                           2009 Distinguished High School Application

an opportunity to share their strengths and areas of expertise with the novice teachers. The
result is a department that works very well together in sharing instructional strategies,
materials, and overall experiential knowledge of the language arts.

        Our English teachers are thoroughly knowledgeable of the state curriculum standards
for the secondary language arts. Throughout the years, we have held curriculum mapping and
standards-alignment sessions, and our teachers have woven them throughout the English
courses offered on our site. Through department meetings, retreats, and professional
development days, our English teachers participate in vertical teaming exercises as well as
course-alike partnerships. We have a strong curricular scope and sequence and each class
dovetails into the next. English teachers know that they can turn to colleagues in the
department for assistance in curriculum planning and materials development.

       We also encourage our English teachers to attend local conferences and workshops
related to instruction in the language arts. Several of our teachers have even presented at
these workshops, whether it concerns Advanced Placement courses or working with second
language learners. Last year, three of our teachers served on textbook adoption committees,
seven of our teachers attended Advanced Placement workshops, and others attended
workshops related to writing, oral communications, and the teaching of gifted students. Four of
our teachers are currently participating in the B.T.S.A. Program (Beginning Teacher Support
and Assistance) and three will be enrolling in GATE certification. This year, four of our
teachers participated in Advanced Placement workshops, six attended a workshop on ninth
and tenth-grade instruction, and five will attend a January workshop on Socratic Seminar
instruction. We actively seek out district-sponsored workshops, county-sponsored workshops,
and other forums wherein our teachers can learn new strategies and refine their instructional
repertoire. We also encourage our teachers to share their newly-gained information with their
English colleagues on site—in department meetings and through weekly departmental emails.

        One of our goals as a department is to engage students in powerful, sophisticated
literature. We urge our colleagues to take intellectual risks and to try provocative authors and
challenging literary works. While traditional authors and literary selections still have a place in
our curriculum, we are always looking for stronger, more diverse titles that will challenge and
engage our students. Through state adoption funding, district allotments, GATE funding, and
grants from our Foundation, our English teachers know that they can try out different and
relevant works of literature in their classrooms. In surveying our teachers, we know that in the
last few years our students have been introduced to such challenging authors and works as
Villasenor’s Rain of Gold, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Marquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold,
Khadra’s The Swallows of Kabul, Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, Spiegelman’s Maus,
O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War,
Zola’s Germinal, Dante’s Inferno, Coelho’s The Alchemist, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were
Watching God, Hesse’s Demian, Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, and Krakauer’s Into the
Wild. These titles are representative of the challenging works we want our students to
experience in their English classes. Our department takes pride in the excellent array of
supplemental textbooks that we have amassed since the opening of our school.

      In the past five years, we have worked hard to raise our API scores and to close the
achievement gap between our high-performing students and our struggling students. As a
department, we looked carefully at our writing instruction and developed a sequenced menu of
California Department of Education                             2009 Distinguished High School Application

key rhetorical writing types to be taught at each grade level. We then created a scope and
sequence chart of these types of writing (from prewriting strategies to major essay types to
MLA-based research papers). When new teachers join our department, they are introduced to
this sequence of writing. (We use the very same approach with our teaching of the essential
literary terms—a key area recommended by our state standards for English language arts.) As
a result, we know that as students progress from grades nine through twelve they will have the
opportunity to write and gain mastery in a variety of modes during their high school career. As
a department, we revisit this writing sequence yearly and make any adjustments based on
teachers’ experiences and successes in the classroom. The chart that follows illustrates the
types of writing at the ninth-grade level. The sophistication and rigor of the writing types grows
with each succeeding grade level.

              9th Grade
                   Journal Writing
                   Creative Writing
                   Autobiographical Incident/Memoir
                   Writing Process (work that shows all aspects of writing process)
                   Reader-Response (reading logs, dialectical journals, quick writes)
                   Timed Writing (writing on demand practice)
                   Thesis Essays
                   Teacher-Assigned Entries
                   Introduction to Research (Précis; Bibliography; Plagiarism knowledge)
                   Functional Documents
                   Literary Terms Notebook
                   Grammar/Sentence Style Sequence

       We regularly set aside time for teachers to collaborate and assess writing instruction at
our school and to make changes to our program when needed. Last year, we developed a
school-wide writing assessment that allowed us to look at our students’ writing abilities from
grades nine to twelve. During a structured retreat day, we read and assessed a random
sample of our students’ papers. We looked for overall trends across the grade levels,
validated what we found was working, and made adjustments based on areas that needed
work. We then shared these findings with the entire staff during our WASC self-study

        Based on input from our staff, we knew that one area that needed improvement was our
teaching of grammatical concepts and key writing conventions. While it’s an area that all English
teachers teach, we needed to be more uniform and systematic in our approach. As a result, last
year we developed a forty-page style guide entitled The Masterful Stylist: A Guide to Developing a
Dynamic Writing Style. We found funding to print a copy for each student on campus. In addition,
all teachers at our school were given a reference copy. We then placed this document on our
website for parents and students to access and refer to regularly
(www.sandi.net/srhs/student/doc/style_guide.pdf). Through a concerted effort, we introduced all
students to the guide and, through direct instruction and repeated, meaningful use, we made sure
the students became familiar with the concepts, many of which are standard language arts
elements assessed on the CST.

California Department of Education                                    2009 Distinguished High School Application

Results of the Practice:

        The chart below shows the growth of all students’ English scores from 2004 to 2008. We
partially attribute our increase in scores to the successful implementation of this guide.
                                           English Language Arts
                                       All Students, Spring 2004-2008
                     Far Below Basic   Below Basic         Basic         Proficient     Advanced
                       #       %        #      %      #         %       #        %      #      %
             2008     65       3.9     157     9.3   289       17.2    460      27.3   711    42.3
             2007    121       7.5     150     9.3   289       18.0    412      25.7   634    39.5
             2006    131       7.7     190    11.1   334       19.5    438      25.6   619    36.2
             2005     92       5.5     139     8.3   367       21.9    481      28.8   594    35.5
             2004     94       5.7     160     9.7   408       24.7    523      31.7   464    28.1

       We are continuing our sequenced writing program and will be using the style guide with
incoming freshmen (as well as reviewing it with our upperclassmen). We’ve already made
some revisions to the guide based on teacher and student input. Our hope is that the use of
the guide becomes a “tradition” among our students. In fact, we have heard that students at
the middle school have already begun accessing it online. With time and use, the guide will
become a standard feature of our language arts program at SRHS.

        Concerning student achievement data, we are now able to use the district’s
DataDirector program to instantly chart individual student’s test scores over the years.
Formative data (CST scores, Gates-MacGinitie reading scores, benchmark data, attendance
data, transcripts, and the like) are constantly uploaded into DataDirector so that teachers can
easily access student performance data. As a result, we can uncover a great deal of
information about each student as they enter our class in September, and we can look for data
trends with individuals and groups of students as the year progresses. Of course, now that we
have reached the 820 mark on the API, our mission is to aim at an even higher score. We will
achieve this goal by continuing to study at our student population and their achievements, and
then make instructional adjustments to meet their needs. We are armed with a great deal of
information about our students and, working as a team, will help them reach an even higher
level of learning and achievement.

        As a department, we value our students and our teachers. We want to give our English
teachers opportunities to refine their instructional practices as well as share them with their
colleagues. Vertical teaming and course-alike discussions continue to take place on a monthly
basis. Moreover, we value risk-taking: we want our English teachers to always be on the
lookout for new texts to add to our literary curriculum as well as explore different methods to
spark students’ curiosities and ignite classrooms with new ways of seeing and learning. As
English teachers, we continue to “dwell in possibilities” and turn our students’ aspirations into
realities. We feel that as English teachers, we are experiencing a “renaissance” in English
learning at Scripps Ranch High School and we look forward to witnessing the many results of
our combined instructional efforts and our shared devotion to effective English language arts

California Department of Education                               2009 Distinguished High School Application

                                 Signature Practice 2 Overview
CDS Code:          37-68338-3730884
County Name:       San Diego County
District Name:     San Diego Unified School District
School Name:       Scripps Ranch High School

1. Name of Practice:       Synergistic Forces Leading to Student Achievement

2. Which P-16 Council theme(s) does this practice address?

           Access              Culture and Climate         Expectations              Strategies

3. Which element(s) of Aiming High: High Schools for the 21st Century are reflected in this

           Using standards-based education to raise the bar
           Understanding standards, assessment, and accountability
           Creating the context for standards-based education
           Implementing standards based instruction and assessment
           Initiating instruction and assessment of local outcomes
           Supporting student academic success
           Creating structural supports for student success
           Promoting family and community supports for student success
           Developing academic literacy for student success
           Using data for continual improvement

4. How long has this practice been in place?         1-2 years

5. Is this practice schoolwide or targeted?                Schoolwide                Targeted

   If targeted, describe the target population:

California Department of Education                          2009 Distinguished High School Application

                                     Signature Practice #2
                     “Synergistic Forces Leading to Student Achievement”

Rationale/Basis of the Practice:

        As an instructional staff, we know that students learn best in an environment that
supports creativity, critical thinking, and personal voice. We also realize that a large,
comprehensive high school needs to find ways for its students to connect to one another, to
the staff, and to the subject matter. During the past two years of our WASC self-study,
teachers and administrators have had an opportunity to reflect on our instructional practices as
well as our students’ achievement in the core academic areas. In the process of looking at
school culture and climate, instruction, student learning, and support programs, we have
realized that synergy is definitely an underlying force of our school’s success. The Merriam-
Webster Dictionary defines synergy as a “mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility
of distinct participants or elements.” The combined actions and operations of our school’s
many departments have worked in harmony to build an ethos of learning at Scripps Ranch
High School. When we consider such P-16 Council themes as student access, culture and
climate, expectations, and strategies, we begin to realize that there is a synergy at the heart of
our school that is not always found at other high schools. The signature practice to be
discussed here is called “Synergistic Forces Leading to Student Achievement.” This document
will explore some of those concerted forces that underlie our students’ achievement as
witnessed by recent growth on AP scores, CAHSEE results, CST scores, and our overall
growth on the API.

Description of the Practice:

       We begin with our exemplary feeder schools. Most of our students come from two
schools: Marshall Middle School (with a current API score of 907) and Wangenheim Middle
School (821 API). Before our students arrive on our campus, they have already participated in
a successful school culture. They understand the importance of hard work and steadfast
study; moreover, they understand the essence of high-stakes testing. Finally, our school is
located in a community that works closely with, and is supportive of, its neighborhood school.
This community expects Scripps Ranch High School to be successful and they work tirelessly
to bring this expectation to fruition. The participation that we receive from community
members and local businesses is extraordinary—certainly an underlying factor leading to our
school’s success.

        Our school implements standards-based instruction and assessment which has
contributed to our history of academic excellence. In 1996, SRHS was acknowledged as a
California Distinguished School. This last
year, we earned an API of 820, which is         API Comparison 2008      SRHS District State
the highest of all comprehensive high                            Asian    878   844     828
schools in San Diego Unified School                            Filipino   846   828     638
District, and seventh overall in San Diego                    Hispanic    709   676     638
County. Furthermore, 72% of our AP                               White    849   849     776
students (633) received a passing score                           SES     723   687     633
of three, four, or five on their AP Exam in     Students w/ Disabilities  655   572     486

California Department of Education                                     2009 Distinguished High School Application

May 2008 (828 out of 1164 tests), and 95% of our sophomores have passed the CAHSEE last
spring. About 33% of our students are GATE-identified and ten students have been
recognized this last year as National Merit Scholars. This cycle of success sets the bar high in
terms of our expectations for students; similarly, our community expects our school to be
successful. During the past decade, we have continued to make progress in closing the gap
between our high-performing students and our struggling students. The accompanying table
and chart show that, despite some yearly setbacks, our school is making progress and our
subgroups are exceeding district and state API levels.

                                            Sub-Group API Growth
                                              Including Total School

                                                                                  African American
                                             844    849     844        849

                           807       818                    820        846
                                             802   834
                                                   795      809        820        Filipino
                776                  802
                           797       771     799
                                             797    789     785                   Hispanic
                 756       785
                 753       761                                                    White
                 727       693               696    693           712             SES
                 686                         696            669        709        Students w/ Disabilities
                 662       671       677            679
                                             674          652                     Total School API
                                     632                    632

                                             582    539

                  2002     2003      2004   2005   2006    2007        2008

        SRHS takes great pride in communicating with our parents and the community through
Parent Connect and Student Connect (an online grade/data program), our school website,
email, monthly Foundation meetings, monthly community meetings, articles in the community
newspapers, informational meetings with the principal and regular visitations to feeder schools
in the community by the administrative team. Many of our teachers work directly with
community members to obtain classroom speakers, parents for school site councils,
assistance with our senior exhibition, parents for teacher hiring/interview panels, support from
booster clubs, and participation by school volunteers.

       Visitors to our campus immediately see that our school’s atmosphere is inviting and
invigorating. There’s a genuine feeling of goodwill and enthusiasm among our student body.
Students have told our staff that our school is “a fun place to be,” and that it has “high
expectations.” They also admit that there is a “pressure to perform” at our school that they
haven’t always seen at other schools. Moreover, students who come from other parts of the
city have reported that the school “feels safe” and that it has a “strong reputation” (WASC self-
study data). Many parents throughout the district send their students to our campus through
California Department of Education                         2009 Distinguished High School Application

the Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program or the Choice Program. We are fortunate to have a
very visible administration that can be seen welcoming the students as they arrive on campus.
Administrators also circulate throughout the school during passing periods and drop in to
observe different classrooms. Lunch and after school is no exception: administrators and
support staff are visibly making connections with students.

       The SRHS administrative team supports student academic success and the
implementation of standards-based instruction and assessment. In fact, they make it a priority
to conduct daily informal classroom visitations as well as formal observations. They work
diligently to communicate with the teaching staff by providing them with written and oral
feedback based on what they’ve witnessed in the classroom. Teachers are also required to
make at least two observations a year to other classrooms to see instructional strategies,
classroom environments, and teacher-student interactions.

       When the school opened sixteen years ago, one of the prerequisites for teachers
interested in a position at the school was prior leadership at other schools. Many of the
original teachers hired were former resource teachers, mentor teachers, subject-matter experts
or department chairs. These teachers, when hired, were responsible for shaping the new high
school, leading the departments, and shaping the curriculum to meet the needs of our

       Now, approximately sixteen of these original teachers are still on site, holding
leadership positions (i.e., department chairs, resource teachers, lead teachers), and they have
been responsible for ensuring academic continuity within the school. Young teachers arriving
new to our campus are introduced to the instructional philosophy and culture of our school.
Teachers tend to remain at our school, leaving only for district promotions or retirement. The
following chart outlines the expertise and experience of our current teaching staff:

        All schools go through periods of change       Percentage of Faculty with the Following
and transition, and Scripps Ranch High School          Degrees/Experience:
has not been immune to change—from retiring                  Bachelors (BA or BS)           99%
faculty members to budget crises to at-risk                  Single Subject Credential      85%
student populations arriving on our campus. Our              Multiple Subjects Credential   12%
faculty, from time to time, has been asked to                Supplemental Authorization     36%
reflect on practices and instructional                 Graduate Degrees:
philosophies and make changes accordingly. In                MA/MS/M.Ed.                    74%
the past two years, our staff has been involved              M. Public Health                1%
with the Flippin Institute, whose “Capturing Kids’           National Board Certification    2%
Hearts” three-day workshop focuses on                        Ph.D.                           2%
developing safe, trusting, self-managing                     GATE Credential                39%
                                                             SDAIE or CLAD Cert.            88%
classrooms. The Institute’s goals are “to
improve classroom attendance by building
students’ motivation and helping them take responsibility for their actions and performance” as
well as “to develop students’ empathy for diverse cultures and backgrounds.” Over the past
two years, two-thirds of our faculty has participated in the workshops. The result has been a
renewed consideration of how teachers interact with students and how students within classes
are empowered to have more of a voice in their education. Teachers participating in the
workshops have returned to their classrooms with new techniques for building and maintaining
California Department of Education                         2009 Distinguished High School Application

positive classroom climates and developing powerful teacher-student interactions. We have
also seen improved attendance rates at our school. In fact, our school is currently one of the
two top high schools in the district for overall attendance.

       At present, we are working steadfastly to improve systems of intervention for our
struggling students. We use data from progress reports, grade point averages, and test scores
to assist us in this goal. To date, we have a lunchtime “Academic Scholars” program for
students who need support in math. We have just initiated a new after-school tutoring program
that works with academically-struggling freshmen on our campus (December 2008). This
tutoring program involves upperclassmen tutoring these younger students in the core
academic areas, and we have recruited student volunteers from such school-sponsored clubs
as the California Scholarship Federation, the National Honor Society, and our school’s AVID
program. We feel that involving older students as volunteer tutors will also help to build more
student-to-student interactions on our campus. In September, we initiated a Falcon Incentive
Program that targets 45 struggling freshmen. They meet weekly with a vice-principal and
counselor to investigate and discuss ways to be successful in the classroom. In September,
the District funded a Credit Recovery Program that allows students to work online (in our
teacher-run computer lab) to earn credits from a nationally-accredited online educational
service. At this time, the program is working with 70 students, and 31 of these students have
already earned course credits. Finally, our counseling staff works closely with students who
need access to other district programs available to them (i.e., High School Diploma Program,
charter school placement, alternative schools, and other district-run academic support
programs). We also have a career technician available daily to help students with work
permits, job readiness skills, and related areas of interest.

       Our school promotes family and community support through our various partnerships
with such business and community groups as Merrill Lynch, Barnes and Noble, San Diego
State University, Miramar College, Hyatt Hotels, and the annual “Taste of the Ranch” which is
hosted by our Foundation.

       Our Special Education Department places its personnel in key academic classrooms
where the subject-matter teacher and the special education practitioner co-teach and work
collaboratively. This has helped our special education students feel more comfortable and
welcomed in the classroom; moreover, other students are able to witness a diversity of
instructional techniques being used to build communities of learners.

        We are very proud of the achievements of our ROP programs and academies. Our
Academy of Tourism has recently partnered with Hyatt Hotels and will offer our students intern
possibilities at the field of hotels and tourism. Our consumer and family studies program has
been selected as one of four schools in the state to begin a culinary arts program (Fall 2009)
with assistance by a major leader in the culinary arts. Finally, our child development program
was recently spotlighted in the San Diego Union as a result of its exemplary success rate at
giving interested students hands-on training in early childhood education as well as placing
students into work experience programs at local childcare institutions. These are just some of
the examples of how our teachers and departments work collaboratively to help students
connect to our school and to the community and world beyond our doors.

California Department of Education                        2009 Distinguished High School Application

       Our school’s strengths are well-known throughout San Diego County. During this last
year, we’ve had a local news station do live morning broadcasts that have highlighted our
drama department, our construction program, and our world languages department. Our
Varsity Academic League Team is the 2008 City Champion and we’ve been ranked among the
top twenty national teams. Our student-athletes’ achievements are regularly highlighted in our
local newspapers for their contributions to our school. Our school’s marching band continues
to win awards at local and state-level band competitions. Finally, our Air Force ROTC
Program has a great partnership with the Miramar Marine Corps Base and many of our
students develop camaraderie and connectivity through AFJROTC. We also have 50 ASB-
sanctioned clubs, all working to engage students beyond the classroom. We feel that our
school offers all students an opportunity to connect to us—either through academics, sports,
ROP, the visual and performing arts, or other extracurricular pursuits.

Results of the Practice:

        As a staff, we know that we have accomplished great gains in student performance and
achievement. While we are ecstatic about our recent API score of 820, we are also aware of
the expectations from our community and our school district. We know that we will continue to
have new students arrive at our doors and that we must be steadfast and resolute in meeting
their educational needs. With the current budget crisis and the state of our economy, we know
that we have difficult times ahead. We must continue to reflect on our instructional programs
and practices, becoming even smarter in how we strengthen and refine our teaching and
learning. We have a strong ethos of learning at Scripps Ranch High School; keeping it alive
will require continued hard work and synergy—a mission to which we are completely


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