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State Team Evaluating School Programs

The review of such 'categorical' services as ESL and gifted classes--which are not covered by general funding--is routine.


A state team of evaluators is visiting schools in the Garden Grove Unified School District this week to review the district's categorical programs.

General funding takes care of the basics of running a school, like classrooms, textbooks and teachers. Categorical programs serve needs not covered by general funding, such as adult and special education, programs for gifted children and programs for those learning English.

The funding for categorical programs amounts to several million dollars annually and touches nearly every student in the district, according to Sherry Couron, district director of categorical services.

The six-member team conducted a community meeting Monday to elicit feedback on the programs' effectiveness. Although turnout wasn't high, those who did attend praised the district, Couron said.

"The programs are strong, and everything's going well," she said. "The state team leader said it was very uplifting and that many complimentary comments came from the parents."

School districts undergo a review every four years to ensure that students benefiting from state and federal categorical programs are receiving the district's core curriculum.

The review does not determine the amount of funding a school receives. Couron explained that funding for categorical programs is determined by the number of students who should be in those programs, such as the number of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds. She estimated that almost half of the district's 48,000 students are learning English, second only to the Santa Ana school district in Orange County and well above the state average of 26%.

"The programs certainly do provide a lot of richness to the district," Couron said. "We're happy to receive the funding so that we can bring these opportunities to the students."

On Friday, team members will hold an exit interview with district officials to offer recommendations and point out strengths.

Although this will be Couron's first review as director of the district's categorical programs, she underwent one as principal at Dr. Edward Russell Elementary School in Santa Ana and looks forward to the team's recommendations.

"We're never at a perfect place," said Couron. "We're always looking for a next step and how we can improve."

Chris Ceballos can be reached at (714) 966-7440.

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