It was not too many years ago that Marylin Avenue Elementary School staff traveled around the State visiting schools to learn how to improve academic results for their students. Remarkably, in the past 11 years Marylin Avenue has increased student achievement to the extent that teams from schools now come to Livermore to learn how it has become one of the premier schools in California, if not the country, for its ability to effectively educate students who come from a range of backgrounds including
The Livermore elementary school has been featured in three books that have cited their unique strategies and successes working with a challenging student demographic. The school was also visited by the well respected researcher, Dr. Andy Hargreaves from Boston College, who was researching the characteristics of effective organizations in education, medicine and business.
When the State testing results were released this week, Marylin students had surpassed the 800 level — the statewide API performance target for all schools. The official API for Marylin is 808, a gain of 163 points since 2005. Hispanic students gained 200 API points to 796, while English learners improved 186 points to 779 and students living in poverty gained 184 points to 799.
Jeff Keller, Principal of Marylin Avenue School, stated, “Our staff has worked very hard to provide excellent, personalized education for all of our students, regardless of their achievement level. Reaching the 800 level is a major accomplishment for everyone at Marylin Avenue and I join the community to congratulate the students and the staff.”
The dramatic improvement is even more impressive considering the increase in numbers of non-native English speakers, which grew 16 percent to 65 percent of the student body, as well as students receiving free or reduced priced lunches, which increased 36 percent to 85 percent of the population from 2005 to 2012. During this same time period Marylin increased the number of students
proficient on the STAR test by 28 percent in language arts and 41 percent in math.
A vital component of the turnaround at Marylin is Project Roadrunner, named for the school’s mascot. This project brought together 40 different business and community groups to support student learning. Included in this group is United Way (a lead and continuing funder), Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories, the City of Livermore and the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks
District (LARPD), as well as the Livermore Rotary Clubs, the Assistance League of the Amador Valley and many other non-profit and for-profit contributors. They combined to provide books, food, medical and dental screening and care and helped Marylin evolve into a school dedicated to student achievement.
Keller believes the student success stems directly from the grade level teaching teams that collaborate and share responsibility for achievement of all students at that level. Each level, based upon State standards, has created clear learning objectives and the assessments to match so they know how students are doing. Assessing progress is routine. Students who aren’t learning as well can be
helped and those who are doing very well can continue to be challenged. Teachers also analyze assessment data to determine if their instructional strategies were effective. Ineffective strategies are discontinued or revised, and successful strategies are shared with others. The result is improved instruction and student achievement.
It was also helpful last year when Marylin participated in the District-wide process, Instructional Rounds, which brings administrators and staff onto the campus to observe the instructional practice. The program is designed to observe and collect data on how well a specific practice has been implemented and the difference it makes in student learning. In Marylin’s case, it was how well teachers checked for understanding and then offered immediate and constructive feedback to students. Research has shown that assessing student understanding and providing
effective feedback are among the best strategies for improving instruction.
“With feedback being the strategy that our peers were evaluating, our staff got very good at it and it certainly helped move the meter with the instruction,” Keller said.
Marylin School’s progress over the past decade is a tribute to a dedicated staff who is willing to improve their instructional skills and work with parents and the community to ensure that barriers to learning are removed so students can succeed. The achievement gains, Keller said, were due to processes that allowed teachers to learn together and from each other.
School Board President Bill Dunlop, firstname.lastname@example.org (925) 455-1907