Superintendent Terry L. Walker delivered his second annual State of the District address Jan. 18, focused on the future of education in the Irvine Unified School District and the District’s commitment to continuous improvement to prepare students for an ever-changing world.
Throughout the presentation, Walker discussed various topics including skills students need for success after high school, IUSD staff and partners, teaching and learning, technology, facilities and funding. He noted that embedded in each of these areas is a core founding principle that outrageous expectations should be standard, stating, “Having outrageous expectations is powerful.”
“Preparing students for this rapidly evolving world is what we are trying to accomplish,” Walker told an audience of IUSD Board Members, teachers, administrators, students, parents, local dignitaries, business leaders and Irvine community members at the Northwood High School performing arts center. “I want our schools to prepare kids not just for something,” he said. “I want them to be prepared for anything because we don’t know what they might face in a world where 70 percent of jobs have not been created yet.”
He went on to state that IUSD is preparing students to be game changers and innovators, who have the skills and abilities to be resilient, to see connections between disciplines, be collaborative, embrace a growth mindset, be intellectual risk-takers, critically evaluate content, be effective communicators in our increasingly diverse world, and not only focus on IQ but also EQ – emotional intelligence.
As a result of IUSD’s rapid growth in recent years, the District has hired 1,156 teachers since 2011. This astounding growth has enabled IUSD to hire teachers and staff who share IUSD’s core values. Walker said, “They are passionate, compassionate, flexible and adaptable, student-centered, reflective, collaborative, relationship-centered and courageous.”
He attributed the District’s high level of service and performance to talented teachers, staff and administrators. He praised IUSD’s staff for adapting, refining and reflecting on ways to improve student learning and outcomes. The belief in student-centered learning is at the heart of their work each day, Walker said.
Teaching and Learning
During this portion of the presentation, Walker not only focused on how we teach but also the importance of understanding how students learn. He discussed the programs IUSD has implemented to better assess student learning. One example is the Student Shadowing Program, which was designed for staff to walk in the shoes of students for a day to understand how they learn, engage in the classroom and to understand their challenges and needs.
He also talked about Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), where teachers get to share ideas and feedback to improve student learning. This programs looks at evidence of the teachers’ effectiveness and how they can collaborate to meet each child’s needs.
To watch a short video about PLCs, click here.
Superintendent Walker shared the investments the District has made in critical technological infrastructure for better and faster connectivity and access to web-based services such as Google Apps for Education. He discussed the importance of devices such as Chromebooks, tablets, robotics, 3D printers and other digital learning tools that are helping teachers transform how students learn.
To watch a brief IUSD technology video, click here.
Walker discussed the opportunities IUSD has had over the last six years to build new schools to meet the needs of Irvine’s growing population.
The number of students enrolled this year is 35,290, an increase of 8,032 since Walker became superintendent in 2011. That’s nearly twice as much as the increase over the previous 14 years.
In addition, the District has upgraded older schools through Measure E funds, so that all IUSD students have access to the same educational resources and facilities as those in newer schools. Walker cited the Board of Education’s priority – educational equity – to ensure all students have access to science, design and innovation labs, internet connectivity, dedicated music rooms, flexible furniture and more.
Many IUSD schools are designed to encourage collaboration among students and teachers -- a critical skill in the 21st century. They feature movable chairs, desks and other furniture so that students can move around and work in small groups.
“At the end of the day, the reason why we do something is that it benefits students,” Walker said. “We have an overlying belief that every single child can achieve at a high level with the right supports.”
Click here to watch a brief time-lapse video of flexible learning spaces at Eastwood Elementary.
Despite being one of the fastest growing and highest performing school districts in the nation, Walker said, IUSD is facing daunting funding challenges.
The District receives $8,266 per student, compared to the state average of $10,036 and the national average of $12,156. That means the District would have an additional $59.6 and an additional $139 million per year to spend on students if it received the state and national average funding.
To meet this funding challenge head-on, Walker outlined how the District leverages its limited resources, time and focus to best meet the needs of students.
As a result, in the past year, IUSD received numerous awards including being ranked No. 3 in the nation for education by WalletHub, being named a Best Community for Education by the prestigious NAMM Foundation, and being ranked No. 1 in Orange County by Niche.
And for the third year in a row, IUSD has finished second in California for the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards in both English and math. IUSD SAT scores continue to outperform state averages and the District is consistently ranked high on Newsweek’s list of America’s Top High Schools.
Walker thanked and acknowledged IUSD Board Members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Betty Carroll, Ira Glasky and Sharon Wallin for their leadership and the strategic investments they have made in teaching and learning, technology and facilities.
He also thanked community partners -- such as the city, PTA, Irvine Public Schools Foundation, Irvine Company and FivePoint -- for their support.
“This is a ‘We Story’ in Irvine and it always will be,” Walker said. “We have a lot of things to be proud of and I hope you take pride in a lot of what I’m showing you today.”
The event kicked off with performances by the Northwood High theater dance students, followed by introductory remarks from Board President Lauren Brooks.
To view a photo gallery of the 2019 State of the District, click here.
To view a PDF of the presentation, click here.