For the past two weeks, Assistant Principal Carlos Siragusa’s office has turned into what resembles the organized chaos of a circus. Papers and notebooks have been piling up since the end of spring break with important information on all sophomores and juniors—approximately 1150 students. Siragusa has silently become the ringmaster of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for Bonita Vista High School.
Despite it being his first year at BVH, Siragusa was tasked with organizing and administering the SBAC testing. Mainly, he created the schedule for the SBAC, which is drastically different to other SBAC schedules of years prior. This has since been managing the testing process.
“Kids don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t advertise it. [This] is what I’m doing on the backside: trying to juggle everything and making sure that everybody knows where they’re going [and] juggling the schedule to make sure that the classes are available,” Siragusa said. “There hasn’t been much movement, people [aren’t] running [around] saying ‘Hey, there’s nobody here.’ It’s been pretty quiet. If you didn’t know we were testing you couldn’t tell we were testing. If you just walked on campus you would have no idea.”
One of Siragusa’s main responsibilities during SBAC testing is to make sure all students take and complete the test, whether it be the science portion taken by sophomores or the English and math portions taken by juniors. According to Siragusa, at least 98 percent of students need to be tested. If this percentage is not accomplished, the school’s rating is penalized according to the State of California which uses the SBAC to assess the education provided by the school and “student mastery of Common Core Standards.”
“It takes a lot of lists and organization and you look at a lot of lists and after a while your eyes start being like ‘Wow man,’ and it all starts looking the same so you gotta step away a little bit,” Siragusa said.
Instead of having a traditional block split, Siragusa designed a schedule that alternated between a two/four and three/five block schedule with first, sixth and seventh every day for one hour. Siragusa was not alone in creating this schedule, receiving help from various staff members. Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate coordinator Jared Phelps, who describes himself as a “consultant and colleague” to Siragusa in terms of SBAC scheduling, helped organize the agenda for the SBAC because of the way it overlaps with AP/IB testing preparation.
“In some sense the easier solution would be for us to just go on block schedule for three weeks in the end of April, get everybody’s testing done and then start AP exams. That’s the easiest solution possible, but that does ask for AP and IB teachers and students to take between two and four hours out of their study time to spend on SBAC testing, which is one of the things we were trying to avoid and work around,” Phelps said. “This schedule is way more work for Siragusa and way more work for him in terms of arranging make up tests and figuring those things out. That’s work that he’s willing to take on because he believes that it’s beneficial for the students who are preparing for these exams.”
Throughout the process of creating the schedule, Siragusa took suggestions from the Faculty Advisory Committee, which is composed of the heads of department, as well as from other teachers. Some of these suggestions included that of postponing SBAC testing for students taking tests such as AP Physics, AP US History or AP English as well as starting and finishing at the same time of the day as the normal schedule. Kalie Betts, English 10 teacher and Head of the English Department, collaborated with Siragusa in the creation of the new schedule along with the rest of the FAC.
“I think Mr. Siragusa did an excellent job of trying to honor all of the teachers requests and students requests about not starting at different times like we have done in the past. In the past we’ve had a schedule where seventh period classes got half the amount of time as all the other classes because they couldn’t find how to change the times to make it all work and Mr. Siragusa found a way to do it. It can be a little awkward planning for hour classes and block classes separately but besides that I think it fits in with our time constraints really well,” Betts said.
Multiple sources agreed that the schedule is not perfect as it does change the routines of both students and teachers. However, according to Phelps, last year’s schedule was a bigger issue because of the different start times and end times to the school days. Phelps claimed that tardies and absences were a problem last year due to confusion. The BVH Attendance Office was unable to provide any data to back that claim.
“I like it a lot, I was a really big fan of it,” Phelps said about the schedule. “I think a part of it is that I failed to see is that nothing is perfect, but I don’t know that I see a whole lot of drawbacks with the schedule that has been put together. In my mind the biggest drawback is probably from a teacher perspective because, let’s take [Jennifer] Ekstein for instance—Mrs. Ekstein teaches [the same class] fifth and sixth period. She teaches Environmental Systems and Societies those two periods so she has to plan for her fifth period class to be two hours long five days and she has to plan the same class to be one hour long for ten days and I can see how that would be challenging for a teacher.”
Ekstein, who is currently preparing her IB ESS students for the IB test, stated that she will have to modify her final for her different periods due to the time difference. However, she feels that this is not a drastic problem and will be able to adapt to the shift.
“You have to test kids [on the SBAC] and no matter what, the schedule has to change. Its an impact but it’s nothing I can’t work around. Last year’s schedule was difficult for period seven. You don’t win. Both schedules have their ups and downs. It’s going to impact my final. It means that one whole class will finish but the other won’t and I have to work with that,” Ekstein said.
Siragusa is not sure whether the schedule will be kept the same next year as he “is always open” to suggestions and “always wants to improve.” Siragusa stated that he is content with how the SBAC testing is going and says it’s “going smoothly” despite all of its moving parts.
“I think there isn’t a whole lot of negatives. Because we have to be on block schedule no matter what for testing, we have no way of getting around that, this is the best of everything we’ve come up with so far. Maybe in the future we’ll develop a different plan,” Betts said.