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Providencia seeks waiver on sanctions

Gary Moskowitz

Providencia Elementary School officials are hoping the school won’t

be sanctioned by the same state program for underperforming schools

that it volunteered to participate in three years ago.


Burbank Unified School District board members on Thursday voted to

ask the California Department of Education to reconsider a decision

to send an external evaluation team to the school, based on

Providencia’s drop on the Academic Performance Index this year.


The API measures school performance based on annual scores on

California Standards Tests, the California Achievement Test and the

California High School Exit Exam. The highest score on the index is

1000; the state target for all schools is 800.

Providencia’s index score dropped one point this year, from 748 to

747, said Caroline Brumm, Burbank Unified School District’s director

of student assessment and evaluation.

The state notified the district on Nov. 19 that sanctions would be


imposed on the school, Brumm said.

"[The state is] trying to determine if it’s appropriate for a

school that is 53 points from the state goal to be considered for

program improvement, but we say no, it isn’t,” she said. “What we are

trying is working. I don’t want them off track or going with some

program that an external person wants. They have a wonderful program

[at Providencia].

“I liken this to having a hangnail and someone putting you in a


full body cast for two years,” she added.

The school voluntarily joined the state’s Immediate Intervention

Underperforming Schools program during the 1999-2000 school year.

Joining the program entitled the school to an initial $50,000

planning fund and $150,000 annually for teacher training and


For the past three years, the school has worked to improve student

performance in mathematics in kindergarten through fifth grade, and

has worked with early elementary students on writing strategies,

officials said. The school’s API score was 587 in 1999, 670 in 2000,

712 in 2001 and 748 in 2002, according to state reports.

“We are confident we can go up again this year,” Providencia

Principal Amin Oria said. “We don’t want to be totally switched

around because we know what we are doing is working. The past three

years have been very positive.”

The state would provide the school with $75,000 to hire an

external evaluator, who would be responsible for conducting a school

survey within 60 days for state approval, Brumm said.

Wendy Harris, an assistant superintendent with the state

Department of Education, would not comment directly on the school

district’s decision to apply for a waiver, but did say the state

board would be reviewing all waiver requests in January.

“The intent [of the sanction] is to make [the] school even smarter

about how it can improve and sustain improvements,” Harris said.