Archive of Featured School stories

Featured School: Arena Union Elementary

Mendocino County Office of Education is honored by highlighting the efforts and hard work of the staff, students, and community of Arena Union Elementary. Arena Union Elementary captures the essence of what all Mendocino County Schools are striving for—excellence in education by making considerable strides in student achievement.

Arena Union Elementary is a small, rural, and pre-school through 8th grade elementary school, on the rugged Mendocino Coast. The school currently has 267 students enrolled in their K-8 program, with another 26 enrolled in their pre-school program. The student population is very diverse with: 40% being Hispanic, 18% being Native American, and 42% being Anglo. The student population is comprised of 73% are Socially Economic Disadvantaged (SED), 35% are English Learners, and 9.5% are Students with Disabilities.

Arena Union Elementary is in their third year of Program Improvement. The consistent focus on their vision – “to implement a streamlined focus on standards, with quarterly benchmarks in ELA, Math, and Writing” has contributed to the increase of student achievement. The CST scores from the 2011-2012 school year demonstrated their commitment to providing a rigorous academic education to all of their students. They met all of their AYP criteria 21 out of 21 of the sub categories and the number of students proficient increased in: ELA by 12.2%, math by 5.5%, science by 17.6%, and History and Social Science by 1.2%. In addition, their Academic Performance Index (API) increased 50 points from last year’s base score and the school Safe Harbored in math and ELA in all their subgroups as well as school wide. This means that they will maintain their PI year three status. If they meet their criteria for next year (2012-2013), they will exit Program Improvement! This is a difficult status to attain, but demonstrates what hard work, focus, and constant perseverance can accomplish when a school maintains the focus on student achievement.

The school staff has worked hard to encourage a spirit of collegiality and professionalism to improve the pedagogy in their daily lessons. They have done this through the use of peer observations and support, structured student engagement, systematic checking for student understanding, and focus on explicit direct instruction. The dedicated, professional hard-working staff have a common goal and a sense of urgency regarding the success of every student.

The Mendocino and Lake County Leadership Network have inspired the staff of Arena Union to bring new and different insights back to their school. Last year, the Arena Elementary leadership team was interested in the idea of “Accountable Talk” and presented this idea to the entire staff. After collaborative discussions, the staff developed a matrix of sentence frames related to how students should use academic language in the classroom. Furthermore, students were expected to answer all questions in complete sentences and the teachers used the strategies of think-pair-share and random selection to increase the use of academic vocabulary. The emphasis of the use of academic language at all grade levels has provided the students at Arena Union a sense of academic confidence.

Arena Union Elementary has demonstrated what hard work, collaboration, reflective insight and maintaining an academic focus can accomplish - student achievement!