By Eliza Partika
Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Vivian Ekchian celebrated the academic achievements of students at the Board of Education meeting this week, highlighting the new Mobile Makerspace labs that will be kicking off soon to underpin science and STEM skills.
The mobile labs will encourage students to bring their designs and ideas to life using 3D and Cricut printers, sewing kits, laser cutter and more. The hands-on experiences are meant to enhance STEM skills.
“None of this happens by accident. There is a lot of time and thought that goes into this progress,” said Ekchian.
Recent statistics have shown that GUSD students need more science instruction, she noted: While 61% of students met the standards for English Language Arts and 51% of students met the requirements for Mathematics California Standards testing, only 41% of students achieved or exceeded standards in science.
In response to this, the district implemented new innovations in science curriculum, including Next Generation Science Standards that were taught to 5th- through 8th-graders to give hands-on lessons to students and guide teachers in updated science instruction. A specialized tutoring program, called Super Tutoring support — also based in hands-on learning — was rolled out for students needing help in physics, chemistry and other sciences.
In the Class of 2022, 94% of the district’s students graduated with high school requirements met, while 61% of students graduated with all A-G requirements required for a California State University or a UC.
The Makerspace labs are intended to provide an equitable, hands-on learning space for all elementary school students in the district, by traveling between schools on a predetermined schedule. The district hopes to launch the Makerspace lab program by November.
Standard testing in science is administered once a year for 5th-, 8th-, and 11th-graders, while iReady testing in reading and math is given three times a year to elementary school students, and NWEA Map Diagnostic Testing is given to 6th-grade and up three times a year. Parents have access to a website to see test results and to know whether their student needs support instruction.
“There are lots of different ways that we’re trying to get information on where a student is at and how to help them excel, and where they are excelling, we can kind of keep pushing them,” said Board member Kathleen Cross.
“Students, like adults, cannot learn if their basic needs are not met,” said Board member Ingrid Gunnell, noting that while test scores are important, so is the continued emphasis on students’ mental health. “We continue to make an investment in our mental health and social and emotional support for our students in addition to academic support.”
First published in the May 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.