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State superintendent visits Placerita Junior High

Top school official sees school's successes

Posted: August 24, 2009 10:35 p.m.
Updated: August 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

From left, Sue Solomon and State Superintendent of Instruction Jack O'Connell, follow principal Mike Kuhlman around Placerita Junior High School Monday afternoon. O'Connell got a tour of the finished modernization project which was worked on over the summer.

 
State Superintendent Jack O'Connell toured Placerita Junior High School on Monday to learn about the school's efforts to improve standardized test scores and get a glimpse of the newly-modernized campus.

"We've seen some real growth," Principal Mike Kuhlman told O'Connell and William S. Hart Union High School District officials.

O'Connell, who was touring Southern California, mostly listened during his visit to Placerita Junior High.

Kuhlman used charts and graphs to show O'Connell how Placerita has been improving on the Standardized Testing and Reporting program (STAR) test. Rising test scores in recent years show that the school is tackling the issue of closing the achievement gap in students, Kuhlman said.

The percentage of Hispanic students scoring proficient or advanced in English on the STAR test results has increased by 14.9 percent.

Placerita's Academic Performance Index (API) has been on the increase over the last three years with last's year score hitting 849 - above the statewide goal of 800.

The 950-student junior high school in Newhall is ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, with school data from 2008 showing 54 percent of students are white while 38 percent of students are Hispanic.

Kuhlman pointed to school efforts like the implementation of the SnapGrades program, which allows parents and students to track grades and intervene early when grades slip.

The brief meeting led to a tour of the campus to show off the new buildings and classrooms.

"We had the delight of having the first phase of modernization completed," Kuhlman said.

The $9.3 million modernization of Placerita, one of the Hart district's oldest schools, transformed the gymnasium, classroom buildings, administration offices and locker rooms into state-of-the-art facilities. A number of technology upgrades, like voice lifts for teachers, were also part of the 16-month construction project.

O'Connell also visited the Miner Morning TV studio to record a message of encouragement for parents for back-to-school night on Sept. 3 and for students when they take the STAR test in April.

Just before school got out, O'Connell visited the Christine Parr's English Language Acquisition class as students worked on their writing skills.

"Thank you for working so hard," O'Connell told students in between giving words of advice to the junior high students.

"We really are counting on you to not only meet but exceed those test results from last year," he said.

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