Principal's Letter, Winter 2007 Newsletter:
Dear Vintage Families,
During our opening School Site Council meeting in September, we continued our annual tradition of thoroughly reviewing Vintage’s strategic plan (called the “Single Plan for Student Achievement” by the California Department of Education). Vintage’s strategic plan contains five performance goals that are comprehensive, covering everything from specific targets in reading and math to professional development for teachers, from creating a safe culture on campus to ensuring that all students receive top-level preparation through our academic program. It’s our road map, and everything we’re doing at Vintage is in some way connected to this document.
Many of the changes at Vintage over the past few years have been associated with performance goal #5: ensuring that all students receive top-level preparation through our academic program. In fact, Napa Valley Unified School District has made it clear to all district schools that it expects improvements in this area. Many of our Vintage families, however, have been very happy with the educational experiences their children have received over the years. For many of our very satisfied supporters, improving the academic program may not be as high a priority.
Over the summer, however, the San Francisco Chronicle printed an interesting story. This story compared Bay Area school districts in the area of college preparation (commonly referred to as UC/CSU eligibility). Folks who read this article may have been a bit surprised to see that Napa Valley Unified ranked last among the districts listed, and fell far below the state average in this category. Napa Unified was listed as having 23% of its 2006-07 graduates meeting UC/CSU requirements, compared to many districts that reach 50% and beyond. Although this is not a well-known statistic, it led Napa Valley Unified School District in the spring of 2006 to pass a resolution to improve the entire K-12 academic program. Improving the overall academic program, however, is not something that can be done quickly or easily.
At Vintage, we have made significant changes to our 9th grade program – raising the academic expectations, but also providing stronger support mechanisms to ensure that students are successful. Our first progress report for the 2007-08 school year indicates that these support programs (like our 9th grade houses) are working. The number of students with a “D” average or less (1.5 GPA) dropped by 10%. And this significant increase in student achievement has taken place in an atmosphere where students face a much more challenging academic program. As a school, we believed that our 9th graders could handle a more difficult load, and they have.
But we still have more work to do.
In an effort to better prepare our students for the future, Superintendent John Glaser is following the lead of other top California districts, proposing that NVUSD align its graduation requirements with the entrance requirements for the UC/CSU collegiate system. Even though NVUSD ranked at the bottom of the Chronicle’s list for college preparation, we believe that a few small changes to our academic program will help make our graduates more competitive both at the college level and in the workplace.
In addition to aligning our graduation requirements with the UC/CSU system, Vintage is partnering with representatives from Napa Valley College to build a stronger alignment. Over 55% of our graduates begin their college years at NVC, yet far too many of them don’t complete their two or four year programs. A stronger connection between Vintage and our local junior college will help support success at the post-secondary level in a world that is constantly increasing its expectations for entry-level workers.
But for Vintage and NVUSD to accomplish these goals, we need input and support from our community. In the weeks and months to come, there will be important discussions at Board meetings about increasing our academic expectations, as well as articles in the local paper, and I hope you will take the time to send me a note with your thoughts. Change is always a challenge in the field of education, but changes to the academic program go straight to the heart of our mission. The school, and the district, will need as much support as it can get to make the improvements needed for our students.