A Look at a Student’s Profile and Value Added in our Progams

Hillsides Education Center’s school year begins next week, and I thought it would be important to profile one of our students to give our advocates an idea of who we serve at our nonpublic special education school. Students who attend HEC must be referred by their hometown school districts and have an individualized education plan (IEP). Not all students live at Hillsides. Some live in the community with their parents, relatives or other caregivers. Students who have IEPs are identified with learning challenges, and may have behavioral issues that make it difficult for them to achieve academic successes in the least restrictive environment, namely, a public school.

David, 13, was a student that lived with his parents in the community. On the autism spectrum, he struggled in previous schools before coming to HEC. David had difficulty socially, staying in class, was easily agitated with all social activities that went along with school.
By the end of the year, David made friends, accessed the curriculum and was learning material that the teacher presented. According to Jay Bechtol, director of Hillsides Education Center, David’s social impediments were impacting his ability to learn previously. With support of his team on campus, David was able to focus and learn, deal with social issues, and make notable progress in his academics. What makes this possible for David and so many other students who find themselves having challenges academically and socially while at school? At Hillsides Education Center, 84 students are placed in a learning environment and situation where teachers and assistants work with the child to identify strengths, solve problems, and accept support in order to achieve significant outcomes they can be proud of.

Value Added Approach
Many of you have been following the Los Angeles Times series on the quality of education within the Los Angeles Unified School District.  What is proposed in these articles is a method known as “value added” to the evaluation and rating of instructors and actual schools as one way for parents to be informed about the quality of the education that their children receive. It has generated some controversy and hopefully, a good public discussion on our need to assure quality education for all the children served through LAUSD.
What is interesting about the value added approach is that it compares individual student performance projections with actual achievement and then assigns value to the instructors who presumably help the student exceed the projected performance level. Interesting assumption!
Expectations can have a powerful effect on outcomes. Though we always welcome expectations that are reasonable and achievable, I suggest that we also need to establish expectations that motivate and therefore help us to exceed current levels of performance.
How should we measure our performance here at Hillsides?
What is the” value added” that we provide the children, youth and families we serve?
However we choose to measure the quality of the care we offer, we certainly cannot be satisfied with just an improvement of behavior, but rather expect and strive for the kind of well being that allows our children and their families to be restored to the highest level of functioning possible, nothing less.
In an effort to strengthen our capacity to deliver such quality care, Hillsides, throughout the next few months, will be examining possible national accreditation as a way of establishing clearly stated expectations for all aspects of our services and administration. Look for updates on this process here on the blog and follow along as we attempt to also provide a “value added” approach to the services we provide for whom we care.

Update on AB 12
Yesterday afternoon, AB 12 passed in the California State Senate on a vote of 26 to 8, with 5 abstentions. Then last night, AB 12 went back to the Assembly, which approved the final version of AB 12 on a vote of 73 to 2!

Just yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that youth unemployment hit 51.1%, the highest rate since the government started collecting this data in 1948. The need is so clear and AB 12 can address it with newly available federal funding.

From here, AB 12 enters its final stage: on to Governor Schwarzenegger, who has until the end of September to either sign or veto the bill. This effort will require hard work on the part of every person who cares about children and youth in foster care. 

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