Dr. J. Michael McGrath Elementary School opened September 16, 2003, in the city of Santa Clarita. McGrath Elementary consists of a core building housing the library, multi-purpose room, and school offices; three two-story classroom buildings connected by walkways surrounding the core building; four portable classrooms; a kindergarten building; and a preschool/Resource Center facility. The certificated staff consists of the Principal, Assistant Principal, thirty full-time teachers, and an RSP teacher. Support staff includes a half time counselor, school psychologist, RSP assistant, Speech/Language specialist, School Social Worker and six playground supervisors. The office staff consists of the Office Manager, part time Office Assistant, one Community Outreach Office Support Staff, part time Health Assistant, Library/Media Tech, Project Assistant.
The school serves a residential population in the Newhall community. Housing in the community includes apartments, condominiums, single-family homes, and mobile homes. The current enrollment is 652 students. The school's English language learner (ELL) population is 62%, and the socio-economically disadvantaged population (those who receive a free or reduced-price lunch) represent 83% of the total student population.
Curriculum and Instruction:
The California Content Standards were designed to encourage the highest levels of achievement of every student by defining the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at a core grade level.
In 2005, members of the McGrath teaching staff started a process of examining the content standards by subject areas and prioritizing what students should know by the end of each grade. These teachers were guided by the work of Doug Reeves, and his colleague, Larry Ainsworth, who defined Power Standards as those standards, once mastered, give students the ability to use reasoning and thinking skills to learn and understand other curriculum objectives. Power Standards prioritize State Standards and Expectations by what is essential and critical for student success. Power Standards represent what is most vital in academic literacy and move away from the more arbitrary coverage model that attempts to address every single standard in the State Frameworks.
At the outset of each school year, grade level teachers meet and analyze the prior year student assessment results. The understandings gained at these meetings influence the formation of pacing guides. Pacing guides calendar standards into cycles that each culminates with a common formative assessment (CFA).
Students at McGrath School are dismissed each Friday at 12:15pm. At the conclusion of each cycle, teachers meet on Friday afternoon and chart CFA assessment results for each classroom. These meetings are frank discussions about the most effective and efficient instructional strategies and what are the next best steps to take to ensure that each student masters the skills and concepts embedded in the essential standards.
Friday afternoons are also used by the faculty to plan the Reteaching Block that immediately follows each cycle. The Reteaching Block is a thirty to forty minute period, usually lasting two to three weeks that provides a second chance for students not yet proficient to master the content contained in the just completed cycle. Also, the Reteaching Block is used as an opportunity to provide enrichment activities for students scoring proficient in the cycle assessment.