As test-score frenzy continues to engulf California schools, Central Valley educators are actively improving their curriculum to boost the performance of their lowest performing students, according to a recent study by the Central Valley Educational Research Consortium.

The project’s recently released research report, “Looking for Success: What Schools are Doing to Close the Achievement Gap and Raise their API Scores,” reveals examples of classroom practices that seem to be working in improving student test scores in the 118 Valley schools surveyed.

Dr. Sharon Brown-Welty, associate professor of education in the Kremen School of Education at California State University, Fresno, who worked with the consortium on this study, said, “It’s encouraging to see Valley teachers responding creatively to meet the educational needs of children with some very practical refinements in the classroom.”

The Kremen School’s Joint Doctorate Program in Educational Leadership and the University of California Educational Research Center funded the study, which was designed to discover what schools are doing to improve the achievement of the lowest performing students in the Central Valley. Its four major findings are:

A sense of urgency has emerged that something must be done regarding low student achievement.Principals are using data to drive their decisions, including how to modify curriculum and to determine the levels of each student’s level of achievement.

Using the data from testing has promoted more student-centered, individualized instruction.

Funding has been made available by school districts and state government to support intervention programs and provide help to under-performing schools. This funding, coupled with added resources in the form of awards for achieving set goals has made a difference at school sites.

Reform efforts are targeted school-wide, such as aligning curriculum, working on methodology and extending the school day. These particular efforts are designed to help all students at a school.

Fresno County Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter G. Mehas called the research project “extremely beneficial” to educators. He said the research can help policymakers be better informed and make wiser decisions.

The study examined 118 schools within an eight-county area, including Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

The most identified strategies used by the schools to improve classroom instruction, according to the survey, were: individualized instruction (84%), extended day programs (61%), curriculum articulation (42%), curriculum methodology (25%), parent involvement (23%), extended year programs (20%), mentoring programs (12%) and student services (12%).

Additional information about the study is available by calling Brown-Welty, co-director of the Kremen School-UC joint doctoral program, at 278- 0294.