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No child left behind at El Camino High School

OCEANSIDE — Bob Rowe has been principal of El Camino High School since July and said he already feels a cultural change at the school that is working to raise its overall student Academic Performance Index, or API, score and leave no child behind.
“We do a great job with high-end kids,” Rowe said. “Our AP (advanced placement) program is stellar. We want to reach another 50 percent of the kids who are really struggling for various reasons. That’s our focus.”
To boost scores of low-achieving students, teachers are tasked to hone in on exactly where students are falling behind, decide what intervention is needed, and develop assessments to measure new comprehension.
Rowe said he wants all students to achieve a high enough GPA to have the option of going to college following high school.
The school focus is to provide intervention to students who are performing below a grade C.
“The worst grade kids can have is a D,” Rowe said. “With an F, kids have to retake a class. With a D, they passed at the lowest level and are not eligible for college. Everybody should have the opportunity and chance for academic success and college.”
To improve student learning, the staff of 140 teachers meet up per discipline on early student release day, Wednesdays, and discuss teaching strategies and students progress. When teachers find a number of students are struggling with the same concept, a discipline-wide intervention is brainstormed.
The teaching intervention might be after school tutoring to help students complete a critical assignment or requiring students to attend Saturday classes to catch up on learning basic concepts.
“We want to ID right now who needs help and help them master concepts instead of waiting until the end of year,” Rowe said. “Failure is not an option.”
Student accountability is monitored in a schoolwide data system that tracks student academic progress, missed assignments and absences from school or tutoring sessions. Parents can access this information to stay in the loop. The system also allows automated phone messages to be sent to parents’ work or home.
“It’s tough love in a loving way,” Rowe said. “It’s a paradigm shift to ensure learning.”
Rowe said some immediate signs of schoolwide improvement are students’ pride in their campus, display of school spirit and engagement in class. Intervention has also increased the number of completed assignments and raised class comprehension scores.
The schoolwide practice of immediate intervention does put additional demands on teachers to collectively address stumbling blocks for students and find solutions.
“Some teachers are every enthusiastic, some are going forward cautiously, and some are entrenched in traditional ways of teaching and moving a little slower,” Rowe said.
Rowe’s vision for the school is to let students know they are loved, accountable for their learning and can achieve success.
“I have the belief all kids can learn,” Rowe said.
Rowe has previously implemented this vision at Oceanside middle schools and elementary schools with significant success during his 31 years working for Oceanside Unified School District. He has led schools to raise their student API scores by more than 80 points and exceed the state target score of 800 out of 1,000.
El Camino High School’s current API score is 769. Rowe said he sees no reason it cannot be raised to 800.