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  Mira Costa High School

Manhattan Beach, CA

Focus on Learning

Visiting Committee Report

April 6–9, 2003

Visiting Committee Members

Dr. David L. Rose, Chairperson

Associate Superintendent

Claremont Unified School District

Ms. Christine E. Clark, Principal
John H. Francis Polytechnic High School
Sun Valley, CA

Ms. Lissette Lovett, Vice Principal
San Gorgonio High School
San Bernardino, CA

Mrs. Adele Ohs, Teacher
Quartz Hill High School
Lancaster, CA

Ms. Lan Tran, Student
Huntington Beach, CA

Mr. Alan Van Tassel, Teacher
Bloomington High School
Bloomington, CA

 

Chapter I: Student/Community Profile

Mira Costa High School is the comprehensive high school serving the Manhattan Beach Unified School District (MBUSD) and the legal choice area of Hermosa Beach. The school was established in 1948. The district is comprised of Mira Costa High School (MCHS), Manhattan Beach Middle School, and five elementary schools. Since 1997, the enrollment at MCHS has increased from 2057 to 2452. While most of the growing student population resides in Manhattan Beach, Mira Costa High School adds to its diversity with students coming from the surrounding areas of Hermosa Beach and North Redondo Beach. Additionally, because of the outstanding academic and extra-curricular programs offered, approximately nine percent of the students at Mira Costa are on attendance permits from other areas, such as Hawthorne and Lawndale. The demographics for the school have changed slightly over the past several years. The following chart from California Basic Education Data System (CBEDS) indicates the composition of the Mira Costa High School student population.

Ethnicity

1996

2000

2001

2002

White

77%

80.4%

80%

79%

Hispanic

14.8%

11.7%

11.7%

11.7%

Asian

5.5%

5.5%

5.5%

6.4%

Black

1.4%

1.8%

1.5%

1.6%

Other

.7%

.6%

.9%

1.3%

Other significant factors include the following items:

  • As the staff reviewed data compiled by the District they looked for trends in the Stanford 9 (SAT 9) portion of the testing from 1998 to 2002. It is evident that there is inconsistent growth from year to year within subject areas. Over the five years, though, there has been a net growth at each grade level, in all subject areas, except in grade nine Reading.
  • As the staff reviewed the California Standards Test (CST) they noted that the data show that overall, in English/Language Arts and History/Social Science, the percentage of students in the "Advanced" designation increased from ninth to eleventh grade. In math and science, the "Advanced" performance appears to have decreased. Is this because students are more splintered as they take different courses? Data for students in "Far Below Basic" is erratic in all areas. The data presented more questions than answers at the time of the Self–Study.
  • The Self–Study Report has the following statements concerning the area of STAR data and its analysis, "We recognize that we need to be able to better analyze and utilize data. As we revise curriculum and develop assessment strategies aligned to the instruction, we need to use data to determine if any changes result in increased student achievement. As we work with our data, our focus will shift to the California Standards Tests in order to follow the state’s emphasis, so that curriculum and assessment are more closely aligned."
  • In the initial 2001 CAHSEE administration, MCHS students had a pass rate of 83% in math and 94% in English/Language Arts. As of October 1, 2002, there are 113 students including new enrollees, who have to take and pass one or both sections of the CAHSEE. A large percentage of the students who have not passed the tests are in EL and special education programs. These students are receiving continuing support through reading instruction, accommodations, and special education and English Learner (EL) programs.
  • Mira Costa students do very well on the Scholastic Aptitude Test I (SAT), and graduates attend some of the most prestigious colleges in the United States. As seen in the School Accountability Report Card (SARC), the percentage of seniors taking the SAT has grown from 59% in 1997, to 72% in 2002. Average scores have also increased, with the verbal going from 536 to 542 and the math going from 550 to 555, well above current California averages of verbal 490 and math 516.
  • As noted in the Self–Study, on average, 95% of MCHS students who enroll in AP classes take the AP exam. The AP data below highlights the philosophy of MCHS faculty that challenging students by encouraging them to take rigorous courses produces students who can succeed after graduation.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT RESULTS

YEAR

STUDENTS ENROLLED

TEST TAKEN

% EARNING 3, 4, OR 5

2002

460

962

75

2001

427

939

74

2000

425

940

74

1999

454

905

72.2

1998

351

740

77

1997 **

225

289

80

1996

301

537

81

1995

196

376

82

**A number of scores were invalidated in 1997

  • The student population identified as English Learners (EL) has remained at approximately 4% for the past five years. Students in the EL program receive skill development and support through EL classes and are integrated into the core curriculum classes with Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development (CLAD) certified teachers when possible. The number of redesignated EL students has increased over the past five years. The percentage of students being redesignated has been above the state average for high schools
  • During the previous accreditation in 1997, the need for increased options for all students, especially the middle level student, was highlighted. Mira Costa has added several programs to address this need including these programs or classes: a marine science program, a broadcast and video program, a new arts programs in dance, instrumental music, music theory and vocal music, AP studio art, AP art history, AP computer science, AP calculus BC, AP Spanish literature, linguistics, AVID, and other special interest electives.
  • Over the last six years, MCHS has hired 86 teachers, which represents over half of the teaching faculty. Many of the teachers hired are from out-of-state. The school has maintained a high percentage of teachers with full teaching credentials and teaching within their subject fields.
  • Mira Costa has seen changes in leadership personnel and changes in governance since 1997. Over the past five years, Mira Costa has hired a new principal, four different vice-principals and several department heads. The Education Council was restructured to be one of the primary governing bodies of the school. All department chairs, educational advisors, key support personnel, and administrators serve on Education Council which meets monthly to discuss instructional issues and general school direction and concerns. School Site Council (SSC), formed in 2001-2002 with the state-required composition of members, has as its mandate to coordinate the categorically funded programs and to develop and review the Single School Plan.
  • The dropout rate remains less than one percent and attendance generally is greater than ninety percent on a daily basis.
  • Manhattan Beach USD voters have approved two bond issues, first in 1995 and again in 2000 (70.82%), designed to improve the facilities across the district. The school staff recognizes that this speaks highly of the tremendous support the community constantly gives to the schools in Manhattan Beach USD.

Chapter II: Progress Report

  • Comments on the school's major changes and follow-up process since the last self-study.

Mira Costa staff have made several changes that have provided opportunities to impact student achievement. As outlined in Chapter I, the administrative staff and teaching staff have both added new people who have enhanced the program at Mira Costa. The leadership has been restructured to allow for effective site-based decision making. Representatives from all stakeholders now play a major role in the governance of the school. Education Council now consists of representatives of twelve constituencies, i.e., eight departments, administration, educational advisors (EAs), certificated support, and classified personnel, and meets monthly to discuss and take action upon school policies, schoolwide procedures, and concerns. School Site Council (SSC), comprised of parents, students, teachers, and staff as required by Education Code, meets regularly to identify and coordinate funds of the categorically-funded programs, and to develop a Single School Plan which ensures that all students acquire the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the District’s core curriculum and adopted standards.

Standards and benchmarks have been established in all disciplines. A new model for delivery of services to students in the resource program has been implemented. Students are now placed in general education classes with content specialists and are supported daily by resource teachers in the Learning Center. A resource teacher works closely with each department, especially language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Digital High School grant has enabled faculty and staff to provide up-to-date information to families about student progress. The grant provides funds for technology and training, which ultimately will allow staff to analyze data to determine the impact of our programs on student achievement. Professional development opportunities have focused upon meeting the needs of all students, developing standards and assessments, utilizing technology to implement standards, and relating ESLR’s to the curriculum. As a result, there is an expanded range of performance-based activities and assessments used in many courses.

In 1997 the school used the Focus on Learning protocol and based on the self study and the visiting committee report, the following areas were targeted growth areas; assessment, technology, meeting the needs of all students, and staff development. The team who worked on these areas used the following Target Areas:

  • Assessment
  • Use technology as a tool to improve education
  • Develop and implement ways to equally meet the needs of all students
  • Enhance our collaborative environment to build a learning community to facilitate decision–making.
  • Discussion of the progress made on the critical areas for follow-up, including the impact on student learning.

Mira Costa has made significant progress in each of the areas. In assessment the progress has included:

  • ESLR’s have appeared in the planner that is available to all MCHS students.
  • Some teachers have charts that show which ESLR’s are addressed in particular assignments.
  • Activities have been created to help students achieve ESLR’s.
  • New programs such as AVID, marine biology, Broadcast Academy, etc. have been created to enhance student achievement of the ESLR’s.
  • Programs to evaluate each student’s achievement of the ESLR’s.
  • Staff have an in–depth understanding of assessment and its applications.

In technology the progress has included:

  • A technology leader for each curricular area has been identified.
  • Implemented a security and maintenance system and an active Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).
  • Incorporated technology into the curriculum.
  • Created department technology centers that will allow teachers, as well as students, access to appropriate technology tools specific to each department’s needs.
  • Continue to improve and expand on-going training for staff in technology, including exposure to various technology applications.

  • Create a team of technology "Trainer of Trainers," including a member from each department, to work with other teachers to develop technology strategies for all classes.

In meeting the needs of all students the progress has included:

  • The Mira Costa Guaranteed Guidance program utilizes a team approach incorporating active involvement of parents, providing information to students, encouraging student responsibility, assisting with personal problems and decision making.
  • The guidance program has been expanded by hiring an additional educational advisor.
  • Students have access to a variety of tutoring programs.
  • Access to a variety of student services has been increased.
  • More services have been provided for special needs students.
  • Expanded articulation with the feeder schools.

In staff development the progress has included:

  • Teaching staff has collaborated with the site and district administration to define and implement an effective staff development plan.
  • Staff development has focused on a wide range of activities including; Standards Development and Assessment, Art across the Curriculum, Information Literacy, and Incorporating Technology into the Curriculum.
  • Teachers collaborate on various projects across the disciplines and involve the latest research and innovative instruction ideas.
  • Teachers have developed curriculum and learning activities that assist students to meet identified standards.
  • The decision–making process involves staff, students, parents and administrators.

Chapter III: Self-Study Process

EXPECTED SCHOOLWIDE LEARNING RESULTS

Mira Costa High School graduates, in becoming lifelong learners, will be:

  1. Effective Communicators who:
    1. demonstrate skills in reading, writing, and mathematics and apply them across the curriculum;
    2. articulate ideas clearly and effectively through oral, written, and artistic expression and creative means;
    3. read, listen, and respond effectively and critically;
    4. use technology ethically to access and utilize information.
  2. Critical Thinkers who:
    1. work independently and collaboratively;
    2. solve problems effectively by employing high-level thinking skills;
    3. identify, assess, analyze, synthesize, use and cite resources and information productively;
    4. explore, discuss, and demonstrate an awareness of ethical issues and behavior.
  3. Self-Directed Learners who:
    1. work toward maximizing potential by setting challenging but achievable goals;
    2. demonstrate personal accountability and principled behavior;
    3. exhibit good study/work habits that include regular school/work attendance and effective time management;
    4. monitor, assess, and reflect upon their academic growth and development.
  4. Responsible Citizens who:
    1. acknowledge and respect cultural and ideological diversity and individual differences;
    2. participate in community service;
    3. respect property and natural resources;
    4. demonstrate awareness of a healthy and productive lifestyle.
  • Comment on the school's self-study process with respect to the expected outcomes of the self-study.
  1. The involvement and collaboration of all staff and other stakeholders to support student achievement

    All stakeholders including certificated and classified staff, students, parents, and community members were actively involved in all phases of the Focus on Learning self–study. The Leadership Team was formed early in the process and included representatives from all stakeholder groups. The focus groups were composed of members representing a cross section of the school and community. These groups analyzed data, assessed needs of the students, reviewed many documents, and developed the action plan. Parents and students were actively involved in the process from the beginning and participated throughout the visit. The school actively sought input through a variety of communication avenues.

  2. The clarification and measurement of what all students should know, understand, and be able to do through expected schoolwide learning results and academic standards (note the selected expected schoolwide learning results examined by the school)

The original Mira Costa High School ESLR’s were created six years ago as part of the 1997 WASC/CDE Focus On Learning self-study process. Due to a significant change in staff and student demographics since then, in May 2002 the Leadership Team created activities for all stakeholders to revisit and revise the ESLR’s. Mira Costa stakeholders believe that the revised ESLR’s now reflect the needs of the current learning community.

The school has worked extensively in the area of "Effective Communicators." As the school reviewed this area with the Visiting Committee it became very clear that programs have been put into place to address the needs of all students and especially the English learner and special education student. The school and the district have worked to vertically align the instructional program across all grades K–12. Many of the areas under this ESLR are measured as part of the state testing program.

3. The gathering and analyzing of data about students and student achievement

The Mira Costa staff has in place a variety of systems to collect and utilize data. These systems are being expanded and coordinated so that the data will be more useful enabling the school staff to modify instructional programs based on student needs. Through the WASC process the staff has looked at demographic data, outcome data, and process data. The school is still in the process of measuring student achievement of the ESLRs. As Mira Costa along with the district continues to refine the instructional program using the state content standards and the outcomes as defined in the High School Exit Exam, the committee is of the opinion that the staff will continue to gather and analyze student achievement information to improve the achievement of all students.

The Mira Costa staff identified this area as a major area for future growth and has begun to work on increasing the use of student achievement data to modify and guide instruction. The Visiting Committee has identified this as one of the critical areas for follow–up.

4. The assessment of the entire school program and its impact on student learning in relation to the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results, academic standards and WASC/CDE criteria

Mira Costa utilized the self–study process as an effective vehicle for broadening the knowledge and understanding of the student program with respect to the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results, academic standards and WASC/CDE criteria. Specific practices at the school can be compared to the content standards and WASC/CDE criteria. All Focus Group summaries represent the Stakeholder Groups’ analyses of the school’s current status in relation to the standards, ESLRs and criteria. The assembled evidence attested to the broad array of strategies currently being employed to assess student learning; examples of evidence ran the gamut from traditional standardized test results and samples of teacher developed tests to specific samples of student work collected from all departments. The school is currently reviewing the connection of assessment with the ESLRs, especially as it relates to the state and district content standards. The school staff has for a number of years undertaken the use of authentic assessments that is needed to assure that all students are prepared to become productive citizens.

  1. The alignment of a long-range action plan to the school's areas of need; the development and implementation of an accountability system for monitoring the accomplishment of the plan

Using the self–study process and working with all stakeholders, the school identified four general themes that ran through the focus group conclusions and discussions. These general themes are: 1) successful students, 2) communication, 3) accountability, and 4)  a safe and sound school. The Visiting Committee reviewed the Action Plans and as dialogue continued during the visit the Leadership Team began a process to revise action plans to address the Critical Areas identified as a result of the Committee’s report. The themes of these action plans will be: 1) assessment/accountability, 2) staff development, 3) safe schools/ethics. The revised action plans will be taken back to all stakeholder groups and will be reviewed and discussed. This process was started on the final day of the visit. The implementation of the plans will be monitored by the School Site Council, Educational Council and Governing Board.

  • To what extent has the school accomplished the five-expected outcomes of the self-study?

The school has fully addressed and accomplished the expected outcomes of the self–study. The school is commended for using the process to determine the next steps that will be undertaken to improve student achievement.

Chapter IV: Quality of the School's Program

A. Standards-based Student Learning: Curriculum and Instruction

A1 It is clear that Mira Costa High School deserves its designation as "A California Distinguished School." Since the last WASC self-study in 1997, the school has made significant strides to accomplish its school improvement goals. In the area of Curriculum and Instruction the school has made a concerted effort to address the needs of its special populations through their Learning Center and through special initiatives such as the AVID program, the focus on EL support, the commitment to hiring a reading specialist, extensive focus on reading interventions for low-performing students, and many departmental assessments. Additionally, the departments have begun several initiatives to insure all students are being taught a standards-based curriculum. They have initiated articulation with their middle schools and among grade levels and across departments. They have developed and begun administering grade-level department finals and in some areas have begun cross-curricular conversations resulting in some shared intra-departmental teaching. Their students consistently score above state averages on standardized tests and have many opportunities to participate in a variety of classes. These include AP offerings and a variety of electives including music, journalism, art, Spanish, French, Latin, fashion design, broadcasting, and various athletic programs. Some departments offer individual student conferences.

All students participate in a thinking, meaning-centered, project-centered academic foundation that prepares them to think conceptually, solve problems, and communicate their ideas effectively. Closely aligned with district, state and national standards, the state frameworks and Expected Schoolwide Learning Results, the curriculum emphasizes learning about subjects in depth, connecting new knowledge, and applying learning in real-world contexts.

All academic programs are meaningful, focussed on student achievement, open to students who qualify, and are guided by the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results and defined by high quality academic standards. Increasing numbers of students enroll in academic courses that prepare them for college eligibility. All students develop a four year plan. Integrated programs are designed to meet college entrance requirements, while also providing students with career-related and practical skills.

The standards-based curriculum supports the achievement of the academic standards and the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. Through standards-based learning, the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results are accomplished.

California Frameworks are used to assist schools in work with academic standards and Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. The staff has recently explored Aiming High. The implementation of the precepts of this reform document has yet to be accomplished. Standards-based academic benchmarks have been established in many subject areas, including language arts, social studies, mathematics, and foreign language. Semester-end assessment pieces have been put in place in most subject areas. Rubrics for writing and some other applications have been adopted by some departments. The data that is produced by these assessments have not been used to modify instruction or assess student achievement on a schoolwide or subject-area basis outside the classroom. Informal collaboration takes place naturally among staff.

There is a degree of congruence between the actual concepts and skills taught, the academic standards and the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. Student work is organized in portfolios, graded with reference to common criteria, and calibrated across grade levels in some areas. Cross-age tutoring is used to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. There is a strong effort to articulate with K-8 feeder schools and local colleges and universities. A variety of instructional practices exists which utilize current research to assist all students in accomplishing the ESLRs and academic standards.

A2 The school provides all students access to the core curriculum. The staff has implemented a series of requirements that qualify students to advance from one level to another. All students have access to a college preparation core curriculum. When qualified by test scores, grades, and/or prerequisites, students may advance to honors and/or advanced placement courses. Additional emphasis is placed on teacher recommendations in this process. This continuum of course prerequisites is highly valued by the staff, the students, and the community. Each student is provided with a personal learning plan in the 9th grade year. This plan is implemented as the student progresses through his/her high school career. The College and Career Center provides students with guidance and encouragement as they prepare for school-to-work or college.

A3 Upon completion of the high school program, almost all students meet the requirements of graduation and meet academic standards. In talking with the students and staff, and analyzing their self-study report, it is apparent that Mira Costa offers several opportunities for their students to complete all the requirements of the high school program. Mira Costa makes it easy for all students to meet these requirements by offering a wide spectrum of elective classes.

Mira Costa creates an environment for all types of students to learn and excel to reach their full potential. Programs like AVID and the after–school tutoring programs show that the school has made efforts to reach out to the students; both are evidence showing that the school has been targeting their reading proficiency problems. EL and SDAIE programs support their more diverse group of students and assist in helping them reach their full potential.

Facilities like the school’s Career Center and Learning Center are available as a resource for students to come for support. Educational advisors on campus play a major role in the planning of student’s futures. The educational advisors meet annually with the junior class to help plan for their future; however the school does not have a tracking system in place to follow up on students after graduation.

On the other half of the spectrum, needs of honors and above average students are met through the various electives and AP classes. The school has partnerships with the community for internships. The community has proven to be an active participant in the student’s high school career supporting them financially and emotionally. The community puts much emphasis on Mira Costa’s athletics, arts, and especially the academic program.

A4 Mira Costa has noted that although they were providing many extra services for AP and special needs students, they were not spending as much energy on the average college–bound students on the campus. However, Mira Costa has made significant strides in addressing this critical area from its 1997 report. The expanded elective offerings in fine and applied arts and the addition of layered science courses has allowed many students "in the middle" to succeed.

Several departments have developed vertical benchmarks from eighth grade through twelfth grade and have developed common summative assessment tools.

Mira Costa has a five-year old AVID program in place with an enrollment of about 120 students. They plan to add another class of AVID next year. Mira Costa has supported class size reduction at grade 9 in both English and Mathematics.

Many teachers utilize brain research in designing lessons to address multiple intelligences and differentiate instruction for various learning styles. In social studies and in English particularly, the evidence suggests teachers are using a variety of approaches for instruction and so validates the school’s assertion, although we don’t know if a "wide" variety of strategies are regularly used.

With Digital High School monies, Mira Costa expanded the availability of computers and improved network connectivity. This expansion increased the number of computer labs to seven plus a portable laptop cart. Many teachers are using PowerPoint presentation to impart information and are extending student’s use of technology in the area of assessment. Overall the use of the Digital High School grant has increased student and staff use of technology.

The school has a fine and applied arts department with many course offerings appealing to a wide population of learners. In some of the applied arts classes, students are required to access information from sources outside school to execute projects or to complete assignments. In fine and applied arts many students are engaged in organizing, accessing, and applying knowledge they have already acquired.

Areas of Strength

    • Students have access to a variety of after-school tutoring programs and AP study sessions.
    • Over the past 6 years MCHS has added courses in fine arts and other elective areas to address the needs of all students.
    • MCHS has hired a Reading Specialist to assist low-performing students.
    • The number of students in AP classes is increasing and the passing scores are high.
    • The school is committed to decreased class sizes for 9th grade English and Algebra classes.
    • Students in the middle have a wide variety of class offerings and the school is committed to helping them succeed.
    • Use of technology is increasing across the curriculum.
    • The Mira Costa Special Education program vigorously supports success for all its students.
    • Many departments have articulated with the middle school, establishing benchmarks, essential standards, and common finals.

Key Issues

    • Establish a committee to assess the need for staff development for teachers and classified staff.
    • Implement the principles that pertain to the gathering and disaggregating of data, the prioritizing of the findings, and the modification of instructional practices based on the process.

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work

B. Standards-based Student Learning: Assessment and Accountability

B5 The teachers of Mira Costa High School use multiple teaching and learning strategies, thus allowing students numerous opportunities to demonstrate proficiency, including portfolio assessment, reports, debates, and exams. In some departments, learning logs allow students to self-evaluate their progress. The school’s self-report indicates that numerous State and national assessment results are utilized to evaluate trends and individual needs.

Mira Costa High School uses various assessment tools to reflect upon the educational progress of their student body. Students and teachers review school-wide and individual results, specifically standardized scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test results, Golden State results, and Advanced Placement testing. The school has looked at these results to determine trends, adjust course offerings, and evaluate course requirements. The use of CAHSEE results has suggested the increased dependence upon labs for support, and encouraged the addition of tutoring support for those students who have not passed the exam. The Focus Groups voiced a concern that students who do not choose to attend a four year university may experience peer and parental pressure. Students who choose a two-year or vocational program need continued support to pursue their goals and interests.

Teachers at Mira Costa High School use a wide variety of assessment instruments to evaluate student learning. Examples of these assessment tools include learning logs, portfolios, common department end of course exams, rubrics, lab reports and class presentations.

B6 The governance system of Mira Costa High School focuses upon the use of achievement data while making both financial and curricular decisions for the school. Staff input is included in the decision-making process through representation in Education Council. This committee discusses school issues and votes on school-related matters. Information discussed in these meetings is later shared with the entire faculty and staff in their respective meetings. The School Site Council, including students, parents, and faculty has been created to coordinate the funds of the categorically-funded programs as well as to develop and review the school site plan. Mira Costa has utilized surveys to gather information from parents, students, teachers, and staff to consider school change. The School Accountability Report Card is developed yearly to inform all members of the community about the achievement of academic standards and the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. The stakeholders have agreed that more emphasis needs to be made on developing school and community awareness and understanding of the ESLR’s. While ESLR’s have played a large role in guiding students toward personal achievement, stakeholders have identified a need to continue not only to work toward implementing the ESLR’s, but also to embed them into the school culture.

The school and district regularly assess student progress toward achievement of the academic standards and the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. This data is reported to parents and community members through the PTSA newsletter, the principal’s newsletter, and the School Accountability Report Card. Parents are kept informed about individual student progress through Friday progress reports, phone calls, conferences, progress reports and report cards.

B7 The school’s leadership clearly understands what resources are available both within and outside the school community. The plan to use these resources is based on student needs and supports achievement of the academic standards and the Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. The certificated, classified, and administrative staff, students, parents, and community members are all viewed as essential members of a team, who have unique roles in enabling all students to achieve the academic standards and ESLRs. An educational foundation provides the district and school with extensive support. In addition, Mira Costa has very strong support from its parent community.

The school’s physical plant supports and enhances the learning environment. It is well maintained, functional and attractive, free of graffiti and clean, and supports the special needs of all students. There is an adequate supply of current textbooks, other resource materials and reference materials for every classroom. The library is well supplied with up–to–date materials and technology. There is a plan in place to stay current and update essential technology. The district is viewed as an essential partner.

Areas of Strength

    • All departments tie curriculum to State Standards and ESLR’s.
    • There is timely and consistent feedback to parents about student progress.

Key Issues

    • More staff development time should be allocated to review and analyze state and school test data for the purpose of modifying curriculum to enhance student achievement;
    • Additional opportunities need to be developed for vertical teaming with the middle school
    • Data should be used throughout the school to base curricular decisions.

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work

C. Support for Student Personal and Academic Growth

C8 The stakeholders of Mira Costa High School believe that all students are receiving appropriate support for academic success. The self-study notes many programs are in place designed to support learning (counseling programs, AVID, Best Buddies, Link Crew, peer teaching, CSF tutors, Peer Outreach) as well as multiple support academic opportunities or alternative options for students (summer school, Regional center, Continuation School, Special Education tutorials, independent study, Learning Center, Reading Specialist) and encourage academic success. A variety of tutoring programs are available to all students, including math, science, foreign language, English Learners, special education, reading, and writing. The Learning Center labs are used to support individual needs. Mira Costa has also expanded the traditional guidance program by hiring an additional educational advisor. As a part of the Guaranteed Guidance program, there is a team approach to help ensure academic success and enable each student to meet his or her potential. The Educational Advisors take an active role in ensuring that students have access to graduation requirements and University of California A-G requirements. The College and Career Center also demonstrates outstanding support for all students.

Mira Costa High School offers a variety of programs to assist students in meeting the challenge of academic success. All students are provided with opportunities to access the core curriculum and to meet college or university entrance requirements. Additional electives have been developed to address the needs of students who traditionally feel disconnected from the high school experience. The school community encourages students to seek assistance via faculty tutoring at various times during the school day. The school is also providing a variety of placement options for graduation requirements to all students. When needed, students receive personalized support to achieve the goal of high school graduation through Student Study Team meetings, AVID, and Guaranteed Guidance.

Student support is proactive. Any student who demonstrates either academic or psycho-social challenges are referred for assistance by many different members of the school community. Teachers know their students and are active members of the support system.

Existing school resources and support activities (notably increased tutoring and after-school labs) are focused on helping all students to achieve the academic standards and ESLR’s. Technology is integrated into the curriculum as both a method of delivery and as an enhancement of knowledge of the subject area.

English Learners have access to SDAIE core curriculum classes as well as English Language development classes. Redesignated English Learners have access to tutoring in the mainstream. The number of redesignated students has increased over the past years. English Learners receive additional academic and language support through the use of labs, support classes, and the Intensive Literacy program.

The Special Education Department provides support for students with special needs in the mainstream curriculum as well as in RSP and SDC courses. RSP students receive academic support via the Learning Center. The percentage of university acceptance for Special Education students has increased dramatically.

C9 Mira Costa embraces a number of programs that are meant to support the success of all students. Included in these services are the Guaranteed Guidance program and the College and Career Center. Both are dedicated to supporting the students while at Mira Costa and encouraging a smooth transition to post high school activities. New programs have been developed to help connect students of different backgrounds to the school community and each other such as PACE, Link Crew, and Peer Outreach. For students needing specialized support, there has been an increase of Marriage and Family Therapists sponsored by the South Bay Health District and South Bay Youth Project. A new IMPACT program has been designed with the help of the South Bay Youth Project and the Manhattan Beach Police Department.

Students at Mira Costa High School have access to a system of personal support services through such programs as Peer Outreach class and individual and group counseling. The school psychologist maintains an open door policy for the students by the use of lunch group counseling, providing personal and social counseling as well as support in the areas of drug/alcohol prevention, among others. Educational Advisors work with administrators, teachers, and other members of the school community to identify students who may be at risk and to intervene in an effective manner.

There is a network of support services that include both school-based and community organizations that work for all students to resolve problems and share resources. Through student interviews and Focus Group discussions, it was stated that many students feel undue pressure to excel. This includes academics, athletics, and other activities.

The teaching staff of Mira Costa High School is actively involved as advisers and coaches for organizations and clubs on campus. These clubs help to support students’ social and career interests.

Areas of Strength

    • Stakeholders believe that Mira Costa is a "high achieving" school;
    • Mira Costa has assessed student support needs and instituted new electives, new counseling strategies, and new academic support systems to enable all students to succeed;
    • All stakeholders have high expectations for all students;
    • College and Career Center is inviting and supportive of all students;
    • Focus Groups perceive that the Educational Advisors and other student support personnel are highly effective;
    • Special interest electives have been developed to address the needs of the "middle student." Other activities such as Link Crew are also in place in order to create the necessary connections with the school community;

Key Issues

    • Increase opportunities for vertical teaming with middle school staff;
    • Increase communication to all stakeholders about opportunities, processes and services available;
    • Continue to review the needs of all the special populations (EL, Special Education, culturally diverse, etc.);
    • Continue efforts to address the needs of the middle student (including post-graduate preparation).
    • Students feel tremendous pressure to excel.

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work

D. Culture

D10 Mira Costa High School is perceived as a safe, secure, clean, orderly place that nurtures learning. Interviews, observation, the discipline matrix and School Resource Officer statistics support this view. The self-study credits the diligent maintenance staff for a campus free of graffiti. Overall, there is a positive tone at the school and there is a sense of respect from teachers to students and vice versa. Faculty members experience a sense of respect for their expertise and ideas when sharing amongst each other. Classified staff is valued and respected by the school community. The school continues to work on addressing the issues of drug/alcohol/tobacco on campus as well as applying consistent consequences for cheating.

The school profile indicates that the school anticipates a decrease in diversity in the coming years, signaling a need to review the opportunity for all students to share ideas and thoughts with students of differing cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The culture of Mira Costa High School is characterized by trust, professionalism, and high expectations for all students. The emphasis of the ESLR’s and Standards has focused the community on having graduates able to be successful beyond high school. The students are encouraged to be challenged academically by enrollment in AP and Honors programs, as well as Afternoon College. There has been an increasing emphasis on the needs of the "middle student." These students have been assisted in their connection to the school by way of increased special interest course offerings and other measures to encourage success.

There is also a focus on continuous school improvement. The District, Governing Board, school leadership, and staff have made achieving the ESLR’s and academic standards a priority. Although each department addresses it differently, Standards Based instruction and accountability are key components of the instructional program.

Although members of the school community indicate the need for additional time for staff development activities, the schoolwide staff development has focused on standards alignment, differentiated learning, computer/technology training, diversity and respect speakers, special education training. However, departmental and schoolwide staff development needs to focus upon the use of standardized test scores and other objective data to improve instruction and student achievement. Teachers need to have time to collaborate in order to identify and plan programs and processes to help students achieve continued academic success. The Focus Group members expressed a desire to have more meaningful staff development addressing the needs of departments and utilizing faculty expertise.

Areas of Strength

    • Mira Costa is a safe, clean and supportive environment for learning;
    • Students receive support for personal and academic success; this includes an Educational Advisement staff, excellent coordination of counseling services both on and off campus, enthusiastic College and Career advisement, technology education, and library services;
    • There is a respect for all members of the school community;
    • There is an ongoing effort to address the needs of the middle student;
    • Students report that they consider the faculty both accessible and knowledgeable;

Key Issues

    • A process that facilitates the planning necessary to provide quality staff development activities;
    • Continued support for students who display interest in attending community college and/or vocational school after graduation;
    • Continued effort on addressing the issues of ethics and safe, drug-free environment;

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work

E. Leadership and Staff

E11 The school has done extensive work to ensure that all students have access to challenging, appropriate academic curriculum. In recent years, they have expanded academic offerings in science, math, and fine and applied arts. In many departments, teachers assign projects requiring students to employ critical thinking skills and real-world applications. The committee saw evidence of many types of performance assessments.

E12 Even with the amount of faculty turnover since the last report, MCHS has managed to maintain a significant level of fully credentialed teachers (presently 93%). Eight teachers are on emergency credentials. It is unclear from the self-study in what curricular areas these non-credentialed teachers are assigned.

Through departmental meetings, departments are progressively developing standards-based rubrics and exams for each subject. New teachers participate in the BTSA induction program. Articulation between feeder schools and Mira Costa has increased, resulting in more cohesive standards-based instruction in several subject areas.

While all teachers are using technology for daily and routine administrative functions, the use of technology for direct services to improve student learning is emerging. MCHS is continuing to provide staff in-service in the area of technology for teachers for their own use in classroom presentations. Teachers are in the process of embedding technology in their lessons. Students have ready access to using technology with the limited number of computers that are available at anyone time. MCHS staff endeavors to find the means to provide as many students as possible the optimum technological learning experiences possible. Existing computer labs are used to capacity.

E13 Mira Costa has provided staff development to increase student use of technology in the classroom, however professional development has been inconsistent. Classified personnel have not been involved in professional development beyond technology. The classified staff states they desire to participate in additional training in areas such as: working with people, clerical skills development, student information system training, and technology training.

E14 To a large extent, Mira Costa encourages active participation with parents and the community through such organizations like the PTSA and educational foundation, and partnership with El Camino College. The school has developed and continues to seek ways to improve the communication with parents.

Areas of Strength

    • Students respect teachers and look to them for assistance beyond the classroom
    • New teachers receive strong intradepartmental support.
    • The district office supports MCHS’ innovative programs
    • There is strong curricular leadership for implementing standards throughout the campus
    • Students receive extraordinary support from staff for extra-curricular development
    • MCHS is very responsive to community concerns and receives extraordinary community support
    • Extensive avenues have been employed to communicate with parents and the community
    • Staff support students to reach high levels of achievement

Key Issues

    • Restructuring time as the school staff develops a cohesive staff development plan
    • Intra-school communication and administration-student communication need improvement.

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work

F. Vision and Purpose

F15 Mira Costa High School has a clearly defined vision statement. "Mira Costa is a community of learners where each member has the opportunity to achieve academic, creative, personal, and social excellence." Academic excellence is achieved through courses offered at many levels and at various paces. Students are carefully placed in classes that most appropriately serve their specific needs. Tutoring provides another opportunity for students to achieve the standards. Teachers are currently working to enhance and refine performance-based assessments. In the English department teachers are currently using standards-based assessment rubrics for various writing styles. Some departments have articulated vertically from middle school through graduation to develop benchmarks and common assessments. Students achieve personal excellence through leadership opportunities, educational advising and career counseling opportunities. Social excellence is encouraged through community service projects, collaborative learning and expectations of tolerance and personal integrity.

The MCHS Vision and Purpose Focus Group has identified the formation of a staff development panel as a critical need. The Visiting Committee observed that the current schedule seems to be a barrier to implementation of a consistent staff development program. This panel should identify methods to arrange time for meaningful and relevant staff development. The findings also indicates the need for more departmental time to implement the school vision and the need for more inter– and intra–departmental, grade-level subject, disaggregating of data collaboration.

The school’s vision is defined further by the ESLR’s. The ESLR’s are divided into four broad areas. "Our graduates will be effective communicators, critical thinkers, self-directed learners and responsible citizens." Each of these areas is further defined by specific outcomes. There is a need to gather data across subjects and grade levels that speaks to the achievement of these ESLRs on a subject-specific, lesson-to-lesson level. The intertwining of the strands of the ESLRs and the student work assessments should produce a meaningful opportunity for articulation about student achievement in specific areas of the curriculum. The governing board and the central administration support this effort.

The ESLRs are tied directly to the standards. The ESLRs were developed collegially through a process of gathering information from all the school’s stakeholders. The Vision statement was adopted in 2000 after carefully reviewing the criteria and relating the criteria to the ESLRs as well as the standards.

Areas of Strength

  • ESLRs are tied directly to the California standards.
  • ESLRs developed collegially.
  • Vision statement is well articulated and pertinent to student academic needs.

Key Issues

  • Staff development committee to develop themes from current research relevant to the school population.
  • Gathering and disaggregation of data to modify instructional practices for student achievement.
  • Revisit master schedule planning to accommodate the academic needs of students.
  • Revisit vision and ESLRs to allow new staff and students to participate in the process of developing these schoolwide statements.

Important evidence about student learning from the self-study and the visit that supports these strengths and key issues include the following:

    • School Self-Study Report
    • Dialogue with focus groups and stakeholders
    • Classroom and library visits
    • Conversations with parents, students, and classified personnel
    • Achievement data
    • Review of the Single School Plan
    • Display of student work
  • Part B: Synthesis of Schoolwide Areas of Strength and Schoolwide Critical Areas for Follow-up

The Visiting Committee commends all stakeholders for the thoroughness of the self–study and the diligence in completing the Focus on Learning process and goals. The staff demonstrated over and over their commitment to the students and the educational process. The atmosphere of the school is highly supportive to all members of the school community. The instructional program with its many electives and solid academic courses is just one example of the commitment of the school to increasing student achievement and providing all students with an excellent program. Students at Mira Costa have access to many extracurricular activities through sports, drama, music, and an extensive club structure.

Ample evidence was collected and observed by the visiting committee to support both the schoolwide areas of strength and the critical areas for follow–up. The evidence included: the school’s self–study; conferences with members of all Schoolwide Focus Groups, stakeholder groups, and district office staff; observation of classrooms, support service areas, and campus activities; examination of student work samples; and extended discussions with members of the Leadership Team.

Schoolwide Areas of Strength

    • Students have access to a variety of after-school tutoring programs and AP study sessions.
    • Over the past 6 years MCHS has added courses in the fine arts and other elective areas to address the needs of all students.
    • MCHS has hired a Reading Specialist to assist low-performing students.
    • The number of students in AP classes is increasing and the passing scores are high.
    • The school is committed to decreased class sizes for 9th grade English and Algebra classes.
    • Students in the middle have a wide variety of class offerings and the school is committed to help them succeed.
    • Use of technology is increasing across the curriculum.
    • The Mira Costa Special Education program vigorously supports success for all its students.
    • Many departments have articulated with the middle school to establish benchmarks, essential standards, and common finals.
    • All departments tie curriculum to State Standards and ESLR’s.
    • There is timely and consistent feedback to parents about student progress.
    • Stakeholders believe that Mira Costa is a "high achieving" school;
    • Mira Costa has assessed student support needs and instituted new electives, new counseling strategies, and new academic support systems to enable all students to succeed;
    • All stakeholders have high expectations for all students;
    • College and Career Center is inviting and supportive of all students;
    • Focus Groups perceive that the Educational Advisors and other student support personnel are highly effective;
    • Special interest electives have been developed to address the needs of the "middle student." Other activities such as Link Crew are also in place in order to create the necessary connections with the school community;
    • Mira Costa is a safe, clean and supportive environment for learning;
    • Students receive support for personal and academic success; this includes an Educational Advisement staff, excellent coordination of counseling services both on and off campus, enthusiastic College and Career advisement, technology education, and library services;
    • There is a respect for all members of the school community;
    • Students report that they consider the faculty both accessible and knowledgeable;
    • Students respect teachers and look to them for assistance beyond the classroom
    • New teachers receive strong intradepartmental support.
    • The district office supports MCHS’ innovative programs
    • There is strong curricular leadership for implementing standards throughout the campus
    • Students receive extraordinary support from staff for extra-curricular development
    • MCHS is very responsive to community concerns and receives extraordinary community support
    • Extensive avenues have been employed to communicate with parents and the community
    • Staff support students to reach high levels of achievement
    • ESLRs are tied directly to the California standards.
    • ESLRs developed collegially.
    • Vision statement is well articulated and pertinent to student academic needs.
    • Parents actively support the school through the PTSA, various booster clubs and the Manhattan Beach Educational Foundation.

Schoolwide Critical Areas for Follow-up

    1. Assessment/Accountability: The staff needs to develop a process of using the data from end of course/end of semester and standardized assessments for the ultimate purpose of modification of instruction to support student learning and achievement. The plan should address the incorporation of the district standards, common benchmarks, and other vehicles developed through the vertical alignment the school and district are undertaking. This includes teachers using their own assessments to evaluate and modify their own instruction.
    2. Staff Development: The staff needs to develop and implement a long range plan for professional growth that addresses needs of the certificated and classified staff. Potential topics that would cover the key issues of the focus groups could include but are not limited to standards based instruction; standards based assessment; specific needs in the area of discipline; collection, utilization, and analysis of data; technology related issues; and articulation with feeder schools.
    3. Safe Schools/Ethics-Continued emphasis on creating a positive school climate with a particular emphasis on a drug free environment and a focus on the development of a strong sense of ethical conduct among the students.

Chapter V: Ongoing School Improvement

Summary

The Schoolwide Action Plans have been developed according to the FOL process with input from all stakeholders. The Action Plans continue to be refined by the Leadership Team with constant feedback from other stakeholders. The Leadership Team and the Site Administration along with input from the School Site Council and the Education Council will ensure that the plans are implemented and monitored. The Leadership Team, Site Administration, Focus Groups, and Education Council will be responsible for all phases of the Action Plans. The school will continue to address the WASC criteria and these Action Plans. The Schoolwide Action Plans have been developed by the Leadership Team and are attached to the Visiting Committee’s Report as Appendix A.

The school’s action plans focus on addressing three major areas: 1) Assessment/Accountability, 2) Staff Development, and 3) Safe Schools/Ethics. The school leadership with the concurrence of the staff and the Visiting Committee is addressing these critical elements through four action plans with the Safe Schools/Ethics areas being separated into two action plans.

1. Develop a process of using the data for the purpose of modification of instruction to support student learning and achievement.

Rationale:

Data are not being used effectively to make student placement decisions

Five hundred students are below the 50th percentile in reading on the Stanford–9

Student placement has been inconsistent year to year and from department to department

Data used to make program modifications and instructional decisions

2. Develop and implement a long range plan for professional growth.

Rationale:

Staff has expressed a desire to have more consistent professional development

Focus group discussions indicated a need for providing increased time for departments and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Focus group discussions indicated a desire to involve more faculty input in professional growth decision–making

3. Create a positive school climate with an emphasis on drug free environment and development of a strong sense of ethical conduct among the students.

Rationale:

Results of the ethics survey indicate a need for improved ethical behavior

Increased use of technology indicates the need for more training on the ethical use of information

Increase in inappropriate use of technology is based on the filter log and student discipline reports

Increase in suspensions and citations based on drug, alcohol, and cheating infractions

  • Comments on school improvement issues

The Visiting Committee finds that the Action Plans proposed by Mira Costa High School Leadership Team with the assistance of other staff members are appropriately directed toward improvement of the school’s performance with respect to the FOL process. The Action Plans address the needs identified by the six focus groups, the home groups, and the Visiting Committee. These Action Plans will be supplemented and modified as part of the ongoing Single School Plan, with input from departments and all stakeholders, ongoing review of course offerings, sharing of instructional and assessment techniques and staff participation in on–going technology and instructional strategies staff development.

Discussions with the Leadership Team and the Administration indicate that the Schoolwide Action Plans are viewed as "works in progress" in the same way that the Focus on Learning process was viewed as the beginning of a journey. The Education Council, School Site Council, and Administration will be responsible for the allocation of these resources.

The staff at Mira Costa HS is in agreement that improving the school’s overall programs and services is an ongoing process. Collaboration and communication between students, parents and staff is a key component that will insure quality programs at Mira Costa HS. The staff appears committed to make changes for the benefit of the overall school community. The school administration and staff appears dedicated to implementing assessment activities that will give direction for enhancing curriculum and teaching methodology. The school staff has a history of undertaking and implementing programs designed to improve student learning.

Finally, the Visiting Committee’s concurrence with the Action Plan developed by Mira Costa HS represents a validation of the general direction of change being promoted at the school. The Visiting Committee is confident that pursuing this change will lead to continued high performance of Mira Costa’s students. There is a high degree of enthusiasm, support and commitment by all stakeholders to take these new steps. This commitment includes support of the district and site level administration.

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