- The West Kern Consortium is a collection of small and rural districts in west Kern County that have banded together in an effort to share resources that aren't traditionally available to them.
- In turn, schools are mostly finding success seeing gains in standardized test scores for English and Language Arts and Math. Lost Hills Union School District saw near or over 20% jumps on students meeting or exceeding those standards from the 18-19 school year to the 22-23 school year.
- Though test scores are important, another barometer of success that schools are looking at is whether kids are in school. Maple Elementary School District is leading the way with a personal touch, seeing a 7.4% chronic absenteeism rate, compared to the county's 26.3%.
I'm Sam Hoyle, your Shafter and Lost Hills neighborhood reporter. I mentioned both of those communities for the sole purpose that there are schools in them that are part of the West Kern Consortium. But what is it? Well, the Consortium is a conglomeration of schools: small rural districts in these areas that are defying the odds.
In talking with administrators within the Lost Hills Union and Maple Elementary school district, smaller and rural districts face challenges when it comes to resources, like trying to bring in a community services coordinator, or a math coach. But by banding together to create a co-op, they’re able to provide these services and create a better environment for their students while still doing what they do best.
"When it comes to resources? Yes. We can lean on each other as administrators to help each other in any way that we can. When it comes to accountability, when it comes to local decision-making, no. Each school district still has control of their district and what they want to see in their vision and their mission is a little bit different," said Fidelina Saso, Lost Hills Assistant Superintendent.
In turn, test scores for districts within the consortium have responded mostly in kind with the Lost Hills school district seeing a near or even over 20% point jump in English and math test scores from the 18-19 school year to the 22-23 school year, but the consortium isn’t just focusing on test scores, they’re also focused on getting kids in class.
"All the districts in the consortium are struggling with the attendance issues," said Bryan Easter, Superintendent for Maple Elementary School District.
That’s Bryan Easter, the new Superintendent for Maple Elementary, and in recent history the district is seeing success in making sure kids are in class with a more personal touch.
"Some districts do automated robo calls for when kids miss. So, here it's a lot of personal phone calls. We send out personal postcards to families to let them know that we miss having them at school. So it's — it's less of a punitive message and more of a, 'Hey, we miss your kid.'"
But as a whole, it’s not the just the WKC or the admins who are making this work for the students.
"Our teachers and our principals and our school staff are really the ones who are are they're doing all of the groundwork and really implementing all of the decisions that we are making at the district level," said Saso.
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