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La Cañada High School 7/8 Principal Updates Board of Education on Student Supports

La Cañada High School 7/8 Principal Jarett Gold presented to the La Cañada Board of Education a midyear update for the responsive teaching plan for the 2023-24 school year from August to December at a Feb. 6 Board meeting.
For the past three years, LCUSD schools have implemented responsive teaching plans to provide academic and social-emotional interventions to students needing extra support to meet grade-level standards.
Students are given assessments at the beginning of the school year to determine student needs.
Overall, Gold reported that responsive teaching plans are helping students who are struggling both academically and emotionally, but there is always more room for improvement.

Academic intervention and support at LCHS 7/8 are in the form of office hours, counselor support and executing the push-in model, which lets students with individual education plans receive college credit with the help of special ed teachers.
Office hours are offered to students before and after school for their specific teacher and subject. About 17 teachers offer office hours and an average of nine students per teacher attend the sessions per week.
“Since COVID, we got some monies to be able to support teachers before and or after school, on a sign-up basis,” said Gold. “We have a staff at 7/8 that’s more than willing to give their time. We have 17 teachers representing every subject to offer office hours at least once per week.”
After-school support is offered to all middle school students and includes a math lab, writing lab and HW club. Each lab is offered once a week and an average of nine students attend each lab.
After each quarter, the counselors and Gold review the students at risk for failing a class.
In the first quarter, six seventh graders and about 15 eighth graders received a D or F in math or English.
By the end of the first semester, 17 seventh graders and eight eighth graders received a D or F in math or English.
“I will say these numbers look a little higher than they have in years past, specifically in D’s not in F’s,” said Gold. “I think the number of F’s is kind of typical of what we’ve seen in years past. For the increase in the number of D’s, I’m not sure exactly what to contribute that to but that’s something that we’re looking at with our counselors and with our teachers. But, we do have a lot of support in place for those students.”
To monitor student progress, counselors meet weekly with teachers and start the check-in process with those who are struggling academically or social-emotionally.
Counselors will then meet with the identified students weekly for check-ins and academic planning. Counselors strongly encourage students to take advantage of teachers’ office hours and after-school support groups.
Title 1 intervention is another method to help students academically, which is a federal program that provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers of low-income students. It is a research-based math intervention tutoring program that is offered to the district, and provides funds for teachers and staff focused on interventions for struggling students. About 75 students were qualified to participate and 45 of those students originally agreed to participate once per week. Currently, 23 are regularly attending, which is fewer than what the district would like to see.
“Anything that we’re offering before or after school, it’s hard to get a regular commitment from middle school students with all the things they do inside and outside of school,” said Gold. “We’ve tried to expand those numbers to offer to more students, but unfortunately, those numbers are not growing. If anything, they’re declining, but the students that are coming I feel like get a lot out of it.”
Three teachers offer five sessions total, and about 87% of students participating in the program are now receiving a C or better in their math class.
The push-in model is also in place for middle school students, which gives the opportunity for students with individual education plans to get extra support and college credit in a general education classroom with the help of a special ed teacher in attendance.

Many programs and initiatives are put in place for students needing social-emotional support like WEB, classroom presentations, assemblies, the wellness center and challenge success data.
Where Everyone Belongs, or WEB, is a student-centered transition program led by eighth graders in support of their seventh grade peers.
Gold reported that more than 88% of seventh graders attended the WEB orientation prior to the start of school, to give students a chance to learn about the campus and resources.
Classroom presentations are also part of the model, where a high school assigned Sheriff’s deputy talks to 7/8 students about vaping, drug use, safety, bullying and hazing.
Counselors from LCHS 7/8 also discuss topics ranging from college and career education to social and emotional wellness.
About two or three times a year, Gold visits classrooms to talk about safety/security, bullying, kindness, appropriate language used at school, and expected behavior, to name a few.
“I think the students enjoyed those talks,” said Gold. “I feel like the students get a lot out of them.”
The peer support group on campus also presents to seventh graders on decision making, while eighth graders receive a presentation on understanding mental wellness.
Social media safety and equipping students with tools to manage their emotions, resolve conflict and make reasonable decisions are the topics that are included in yearly assemblies for LCHS 7/8.
Since opening a wellness center in fall 2023, Gold also presented a pie chart showing the total number of students accessing the wellness center and why they are there.
Of the 757 middle school students who access the wellness center, the two biggest reasons are to take a break from class (59.7%), while 17.2% have appointments with a therapist, Gold said.
In the first semester, 24 students received individual weekly counseling sessions, totaling 198 sessions.
Most of the referrals for students to go to the wellness center come from school staff at 46%, then students themselves at 38% and lastly parents and guardians at 16%. Top presenting issues that students have or talk about are peer relationships at 63%, anxiety symptoms at 63% and self-esteem at 46%.
“We’re trying to find a way to make it more of a calm space, because seventh and eighth graders in that space get a little rambunctious,” said Gold. “So, we’re setting expectations, norms and rules, which will be posted in next couple of weeks to kind of make that space to be a little more like the high school, but really to be 7/8 appropriate. There are bumps in the road that we’re working out, but overall, it’s been super positive.”
The Wellness Center therapist and 7/8 counselors meet weekly to discuss student and staff needs, said Gold.
In November 2023, student feedback was collected through surveys administered every other year through the Challenge Success program, which addresses health and stress, sleep, academic integrity, support at school and engagement, to name a few.
When it comes to care from teachers, 89% of students answered favorably. About 93% of students answered favorably for teachers treating students with respect. About 76% of students answered neutrally or favorably when asked if they could be themselves at school and 77% answered neutrally or favorably for feeling like they are a real part of the school.
When asked how many teachers will help them while going through a hard time, 89% answered some, a lot or all.
The Board was happy to hear of the progress that the middle school is making in its responsive teaching plans.
“I always love hearing this stuff, and it makes such a big difference because we’re meeting students where they’re at and just going to the students, which I think is just a hallmark of the success of La Cañada, and so much of the great work we’re doing,” said Board President Josh Epstein.
“I’m just appreciative of how many dimensions of integration you have,” said Board member Joe Radabaugh. “The maturity and the evolution of the last few years is really evident, and you’re at top of your game. The staff is really rolling all the same way and so many pieces are in place to deliver a great experience and it shows in the results, so congratulations.”

First published in the February 15 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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