Rancho San Justo students are pictured at the new wellness center at Hollister High School, in which the middle school students have become actively involved. Photo: Courtesy of Hollister School District
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The Hollister School District has announced that four schools no longer have targeted support designations from the state due to significant progress with student outcomes, while another site also now has an improved label attached to it after taking steps forward. 

R.O. Hardin Elementary School, Rancho San Justo Middle School, Sunnyslope Elementary School and Calaveras School all exited the state’s designation for “Additional Targeted Support & Improvement” (ATSI) programming in 2023-24. The ATSI label means a school “must collaborate with educational partners to develop and implement a school-level plan to improve student outcomes,” according to the California Department of Education. 

ATSI is part of  the state’s multi-tiered system of support, while schools designated for “Comprehensive Support & Intervention” (CSI) mandates are deemed to need an even higher level of attention than ATSI. CSI designations come with additional state funding to a school of about $200,000 annually, but districts must address ATSI sites without additional dollars. 

The ATSI designation essentially acts as a warning of sorts before a site is placed in CSI status. 

Rancho San Justo Middle School in 2023-24 exited the CSI designation and is now an ATSI site, according to Dr. Colleen Myers, educational services director for the Hollister School District. 

“It’s a pretty big deal to have schools leave CSI,” Myers said. “They go through the process of improvement science. It’s quite extensive—looking at their system and how to improve.” 

Myers said the sites look at specific student populations and how the system as a whole can improve for better student outcomes. She noted how two district schools, Ladd Lane Elementary School and the Accelerated Achievement Academy, have no status under the state MTSS. 

Myers mentioned one strategy implemented at the CSI and ATSI sites has been for school administrators to meet monthly at the district level to engage in improvement science practices. She said such efforts, along with hard work by staff and students, have led to this progress. 

Myers said it can be especially challenging for sites like Calaveras and R.O. Hardin to exit the designations because they have historically struggled due to demographics. Those schools and others face higher levels of students who are English language learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged. 

Some schools may be in ATSI for other reasons such as Cerra Vista for its population of students with disabilities. That means there’s always a balance needed in the approach, she said. 

“You’re focusing so much on English learners that your homeless students are now failing,” Myers said. 

She was particularly encouraged to see four of five HSD community schools decrease to or exit ATSI for the same reason, while Maze Middle School has remained in the designation for now. Myers said she’s proud of the staff, students and parents for their dedication to making progress. 

“For them to leave ATSI is monumental,” Myers said. “That’s really, really exciting. That just says something is going on here that is working.”

As principal for R.O. Hardin, one of the four community schools that exited ATSI, Lilia Espinoza acknowledged she had been frustrated initially with yet another title being placed on the school with ATSI and having no funding attached to it. It also had been difficult having to include a line in the school plan about ATSI due to low academic performance in multiple areas of the state assessment dashboard. 

“Our students deserve the best of us, and we strive to provide what they need at their instructional level,” Espinoza said. “We know that what we are doing right now is working.

She said the school is committed to being better every day. 

“We’re still working towards progress and are confident that we’ll get there!” she said. “We are absolutely proud of our students, their hard-working families, and the staff that works alongside them to continue to see this progress.” 

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