High Expectations In The High Sierra

Mammoth Unified serves the families of Mammoth Lakes, a small remote town of 7,000 residents in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, at an elevation of 8,000 feet.  Approximately 1,200 students are enrolled at Mammoth Elementary, Mammoth Middle School, Mammoth High School and Sierra Continuation High School. The student population in MUSD is 60% Hispanic and 58% socioeconomically disadvantaged.  Approximately 30% of the students are English Learners. With about 100 students at each grade level, each school is led by one principal.

Mammoth Unified started working with Focused Schools in September 2015.  Each school year, the Instructional Leadership Teams have met monthly for Professional Development to enhance their capacity to lead the Focus Framework process.  The Superintendent and principals have attended all sessions and participated fully in supporting the work of teacher leaders in their schools.  Principals receive individual monthly coaching. The superintendent and principals meet as a district professional learning community once a month to align practice and ensure the K-12 coherence of the system.

Each school identified an instructional focus and evidence-based best practices in the area of English Language Arts in the first year of the process.  Working closely together as a K-12 system, the ILTs created instructional focus areas that are a sequenced and seamless continuum for students from kindergarten to high school graduation. The crux of the process this past year has been to deepen the work around a dynamic internal accountability system at the district, site, and grade levels.  Using SMARTe goals and CAASPP-aligned quarterly benchmark assessments, as well as more frequent formative assessments, teachers learned how to use data to make student-centered instructional decisions and increase opportunities for all students to succeed through differentiation and individualized intervention.  Teachers also maximized their collaboration time with “Looking at Student Work” protocols.

The work to define “High Quality Teaching and Learning” has begun in our Focus ILT PDs, using Marzano’s “The New Art and Science of Teaching” as a guide. ILT members at all three schools have increased in their confidence and capacity to lead their colleagues in the hard work of improvement and continue to demonstrate their commitment to achievement for all students.

ILTs at each school meet 2 to 3 times per month and have created a culture of shared leadership that supports the challenging work of improving teaching and learning

The culture of teacher collaboration has deepened, enhanced by the district’s commitment to 14 early-student-release days each school year for this purpose.

Mammoth Elementary School’s Dual Immersion Spanish Program in grades kindergarten through 5 added standardized CAASPP-aligned quarterly assessments in Spanish to better monitor student progress in both languages.

Mammoth Middle School increased the number of students proficient in ELA by 14 percentage points in grade 6, 21 percentage points in grade 7, and 6 points in grade 8 on the latest CAASPP. They adopted the high school’s best practice of “claim - evidence - reasoning” (CER) to gain further alignment in the upper grades and started teacher training in middle school level strategies for CER.

Mammoth High School piloted their assessment of student writing, using a California State University-based rubric.  All teachers in all departments participated in the calibration.  The assessment was administered monthly and each teacher served as a scorer at least twice during the year.

Mammoth High School developed flexible learning settings that include online learning, Career/Technical Academies, AP classes, and concurrent enrollment in college, to personalize learning for those with specific needs.  Students worked closely with counselors and teachers to determine their best path towards college and career with these options. MHS increased the number of students taking AP classes (49% of MHS students enrolled in AP this year) and increased the pass rate for AP courses to 89%.  They were nationally recognized by the College Board for increasing access to under-represented student groups in their AP classes.  This year, 20% of MHS students met pre-requisites for, and were concurrently enrolled in, classes at Cerro Coso Community College.

Bryan RobertsComment