School Board Meeting Wrap-Up

The following is from the Laguna Beach School District's meeting on May 24.

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LBUSD Teacher of the Year announced

The school board recognized Michelle Foster as LBUSD Teacher of the Year.

Foster has been a resource specialist at Laguna Beach High School since 2000.

Principal Don Austin honored Foster for her dedication to children with special needs and said "her focus on her students is unquestioned."

Austin went on to say that although Foster might have a bad day, no one would ever notice due to the fact that she always holds her work in the highest regard.

Foster admitted, with a laugh, that when she came to LBHS as a tennis coach, she didn't know anything about special education. Now she's revered by colleagues and special-needs parents for her attention and advocacy.

"Laguna Beach is a place where a teacher can grow and learn," she said. "We've taken some risks and (Austin) allows us to grow."

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SuccessMaker a real success

Assistant Supt. Nancy Hubbell led a presentation on SuccessMaker, new computer software and hardware being used at Laguna Beach schools to help with math.

Due to large donations by SchoolPower, it is in third through fifth grades at Top of the World and El Morro elementary schools and all grades at Thurston Middle School. It's also used for language arts at some schools.

Teachers from the sites applauded the program's ability to target different groups of students and help them with their specific needs.

It works in conjunction with RTI2 , a program previously mentioned at a board meeting that promotes best first instruction for students and then targets their specific needs with specialized interventions.

Whereas it might be hard for a math teacher to teach a lesson while engaging advanced, grade level and struggling students, with SuccessMaker all the students can be challenged simultaneously with the tailor-made questions.

The program also gives the teachers data so that they can access specific areas where multiple students are struggling, showing them when interventions are needed. It also gives them an opportunity to give certain students different homework to take home so that a lesson is fully understood before moving on.

Some teachers showed examples of students advancing two full grade levels because of the program, moving from below fifth-grade level to seventh-grade level math.

Not only has the program helped struggling students, but it also keeps advanced students from feeling bored, giving them more challenging equations as they progress in the program.

An important aspect of math is confidence, the teachers said, and the program has made the kids excited to get to work instead of overwhelmed or fearful.

They mentioned that they hope to use SuccessMaker data to make comparisons between years.

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New social studies course offered at LBHS

Global Studies & Skills, a new course for ninth-graders, was approved by the board.

LBHS social studies teachers Mark Alvarez, Jennifer Lundblad and Jonathan Todd presented the course, which intends to teach social studies in a more engaging and retentive way.

Units included in the course are globalization, U.S. history, world history, U.S. government, economics and social issues. Each course has a specific study skill set that goes with it, such as essay writing and debate.

The course will rotate like a wheel course, with students transitioning between units.

Joanna Clay

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