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A Conversation With Dr. Alain Guevara - LEUSD Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Services
Friday, March 9th, 2007
Issue 10, Volume 11.
Last year, teachers and Guevara analyzed every chapter of each math book to create a pacing guide for teachers for each textbook. The guides were implemented this school year. The district also has an intensive math intervention program for students who are two or more years behind in math skills. Reduced class sizes allow individualized instruction for the remedial work.
The district also sponsors a parenting institute instruction to help parents support their child’s academic needs. Topics such as how to prepare your child for college, building character and how to access financial information are discussed at 10 school sites this year. Last year, the program was in its infancy and the district experimented with five schools. The response led to the doubling of the program.
The multitasking Guevara was principal at Terra Cotta Middle School for three years but has worked with the LEUSD for about 13 years.
Guevara brings his own personal experiences to the role in a district of approximately 22,000 students where 20 percent have tested into the English Learners program. As a bicultural student – his family emigrated from Cuba before he was born – he is very familiar with the struggles a quarter of the district’s population face in the school system.
Under his direction and with the encouragement of the school board trustees, the LEUSD is implementing several programs to help foster a learning atmosphere in both the home and school environments for students at all levels. A balancing act, it is the hope that the students’ positive experiences in the school system will spur them toward success in future education, in careers and in their overall lives.
Between meetings with parents, administrators and teachers, Guevara explained the programs he directs and the goals the district seeks to accomplish in service to its diverse student body.
On the school curriculums
"This year and last year, we took on having pacing guides and making sure teachers know the sequence in which they teach the material and it’s not enough to say that a textbook drives that. It’s really the key essential standards that drive that and sometimes the textbook companies don’t put them in a particular order, or they don’t necessarily place the important standards in the text that will help a child be successful in the long run.
"So teachers need to be able to recognize where the gap is and realize that if we have a standard in reading comprehension that’s not being fully covered in their text, we need to know that. So, what do we supplement it with when we hit that chapter in the book?
"We spent all last year meeting with every [math-related] subject area in middle school and high school… [Teachers] brought their texts and we really analyzed...the key standards that are taught in that subject area, and in some cases we break tradition and skip a chapter.
"It’s up to us to do a paradigm shift. Are we wasting our time on things that will never be tested or which are not crucial to the child’s learning just because they’re in a book?"
On the English Learners
"The kids come to our country and they take a test initially [the California English Language Development Test, or CELDT]. The CELDT is the statewide test that tests their language proficiency, so we check their levels. If they score [at a certain level] we have to place them in a special program. We’re required by law.
"Our point is to educate them and make them successful. The sooner we have them then the sooner we can prepare them, the better.
"One of the things I am doing this year is I’m doing a lot of parent outreach. To me, one of those legs of success is the parent. The child is only going to be as successful as the parent allows them to be and supports them at home.
"Of course, some parents are second-language learners. They never learned English and can’t learn the material we send home. They are not able to understand the math. It’s not the unwillingness to support, it’s the fact that they can’t. So, I thought about how to do that and I found a program that I’m doing this year [Plaza Comunitaria].
"[The Mexican government] established this program and they give us the rights in the US to provide them this Spanish education.
"People might ask, ‘Why would you educate them in Spanish? Why not just teach them in English?’ We want them to learn those content things in their primary language so that as they learn English they will be able to transition that knowledge.
"Our goal is that they set the role model for their student. If the child sees Mom and Dad come in dedicated to learning, I think it sets the tome at the home that education is important to this family. They will be better able to serve their child at home."
On the GATE program
"We identify [GATE students] in third through 12th grades.
"I have monthly meetings with GATE facilitators. Every site has a GATE facilitator, who services the kids. We try to provide things to do, strategies to work with, how to differentiate their instruction that they are able to access at a higher level through their pacing creatively.
"We just started this year an advisory council for the parents of the gifted, so each school has a rep who is invited to come and meet here."
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