Turlock School Board Responds to Grand Jury Over Career Tech Initiatives

The Turlock Unified School District has developed a plan to better promote its Vocational Technical Education courses to all English language learners as part of the district’s response to a report released by the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury in June.

By law, the district had 90 days to formally respond to the jury’s findings and recommendations regarding vocational technical education. The response should indicate whether or not the district agrees with the recommendations with accompanying explanations.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler, former director of CTE and program equity Tami Truax and current director John Acha worked alongside school administrators and data systems staff to collect the data. requested immediately after the publication of the jury’s report. Acha presented the conclusions and the proposed response to the Council before their unanimous vote.

“We’re excited to share this report with you, and I say excited because that’s what I enjoy most about my job: identifying the great things TUSD is already doing, as well as instilling change…We always have to evolve and we always have ways to improve and I appreciate the civilian grand jury,” Acha said.

Acha began by sharing that the district currently offers over 40 CTE courses with 31 teachers teaching them. After taking a closer look at the current state of the programs, Acha and the research team came to the conclusion that TUSD should agree with 8 of the 14 conclusions and recommendations.

One of the first topics listed by the SCCGJ that Acha suggests the district agrees on was that all English learners in the district have the option to enroll in the CTE course. While this is the case, Acha and the team also agreed with the recommendation that the district can do a better job of promoting the courses to all students, including English learners. This recommendation also correlates with the finding regarding attendance, as Acha agreed with the jury that enrollment tends to vary by school and district in Stanislaus County.

“[It’s}somethingwewanttolookinto”saidAchaattheBoard”Whyisthat?”[C’est}quelquechosequenousvoulonsexaminer”adéclaréAchaauConseil”Pourquoidonc?Qu’est-cequ’unsitepeutfairemieuxparrapportàunautreouqu’est-cequiauraitpucausercela ?C’estunebonneinformationsurlaquelleseconcentrer[It’s}somethingwewanttolookinto”AchatoldtheBoard“Whyisthat?Whatisitthatonesitemaybedoingbetterversusanotherorwhatcouldhavecausedthat?It’sgoodinformationtofocuson”

Acha and the team also acknowledged the jury’s finding that the CTE completion rate among English language learners is quite low. According to data presented to the Board, the CTE course completion rate among English language learners at Turlock High was just 10% in 2018 and 2019. At Pitman High, the completion rate was 5%.

“My goal as Director of CTE and Program Equity is to increase our pathway completion rates, referred to as career readiness rates,” Acha said.

Acha shared similar sentiments at the jury’s finding regarding graduation rates at Stanislaus County continuation schools. Acha explained that while graduation rates varied widely from campus to campus, Roselawn High in Turlock had one of the highest rates in the county. Nevertheless, Acha thinks there is always room for improvement.

Among the long list of agreements, Acha had some disagreements regarding the jury’s findings and recommendations.

Staying on the subject of continuation schools, Acha and his team partially disagreed with the finding that TUSD offers CTE programs limited to continuation students.

“We partially disagree here because we as a district are already incorporating some of the recommendations,” Acha said. “We already have several CTE courses available. In continuation high schools it is sometimes difficult with smaller staff, as it would be for a very small school, and it is a challenge, but it is nothing that you cannot overcome or continue to work.

Another disagreement that arose was the jury’s conclusion that scheduling conflicts limit English language learners’ participation in CTE programs.

“Coming from my previous work building the main schedule at Pitman High School, I know the work I did to reduce and limit the number of complex problems for all students,” Acha said. “Absolutely, I want every student to take every course possible, but that’s not possible. And it’s not limited to English learners. At some point, there may just not be a way to make it work.

Acha added that the Aeries software can generally help resolve scheduling conflicts and that there is already an increased effort to reduce conflicts for English learners.

The SCCGJ also indicated in its report that there could be an alleviation of financial burdens for students interested in and participating in CTE courses, a conclusion with which Acha and the team partially disagreed as current policies and practices are put in place. implemented to remove this barrier for TUSD students. There was a similar partial disagreement regarding the technology needed. Acha explained that the devices that all students have can be compatible with more than 130 languages, but acknowledged that the steps to access these tools could be better promoted and taught.

All other conclusions and recommendations published by the SCCGJ have neither been accepted nor disagreed, as TUSD has already implemented the changes or has already offered to make the recommended changes before the end of the current calendar year.

Now that the Board has approved the response, a CTE working group will be formed for this school year. The task force will conduct a comprehensive review of the SCCGJ report with the consulting and administrative teams at Turlock, Pitman and Roselawn High and ultimately develop action plans to respond to the jury’s findings and implement the recommendations.

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