Superintendent's Update - April 14, 2023
From the Office of the Superintendent:
Board Agenda Calendar
The Board agenda calendar can be found HERE.
Artificial Intelligence and Our Schools
Not long ago, I received a media inquiry about some large school districts banning Chat GPT. The reporter wanted to know our plans for PAUSD. While I had heard of Chat GPT, I hadn't thought much about the implications for schools. The only thing I knew with certainty is that banning disruptive technology never ends well!
Some of our readers may not know anything about Chat GPT. In general, it is a chatbot that uses natural language processing to simulate human conversation, potentially providing students with a more interactive and personalized learning experience. In addition to personalized learning, Chat GPT can also improve efficiency in school operations, keeping in mind PAUSD has 1,500 employees and a $300 million budget. It can translate text into multiple languages, edit documents, modify assignments for special education students and English Learners, and produce summaries.
History has shown that similar forms of technology have often experienced initial resistance prior to becoming widely adopted. When calculators were first introduced, there was significant resistance from educators who believed that they would reduce students' ability to perform mental math. However, over time, calculators have become a standard tool in classrooms and are now seen as essential for teaching and learning. I also remember teaching seventh grade social studies classes in Moreno Valley in 1994. Our teaching staff was convinced that the internet (yes… it was new) was going to lead to uncontrolled cheating and cutting corners.
It is important to acknowledge that some people may have concerns about the potential for students to cheat with Chat GPT. However, it is worth noting that cheating is not a new problem in education. It will be important for everyone involved to become educated about the pros and cons of this tool. This change will not be the first time educators have been forced to evolve in the face of new technology. I have asked our team to begin structuring an ad hoc committee for the fall to look thoughtfully at the implications of AI in our schools. This insight will include how AI is used operationally, for teachers, and with our students. I suspect our community has interested people with expertise in this area. We will not pretend the technology is not coming. It is already here. We will work through the issues to the best of our ability, learn from others, and carve a path that makes sense for Palo Alto.
I spoke with a university administrator about how Chat GPT is being embraced in higher education. I was told that some teachers have reverted to using "Blue Books" for students to handwrite essays. Others have included a message on assignments for students to self-report how they used AI in the creation of their submissions. The gap between approaches is staggering and is evidence of the amount of work we will need to do together to calibrate our understanding and use of disruptive technology. We will create spaces for thoughtful conversations about new technology and how we need to evolve as a profession.
The Palo Alto Unified School District is an example of a district committed to embracing emerging technologies and innovative approaches to education. PAUSD recognizes the potential of Chat GPT to enhance learning outcomes and improve efficiency. By setting an example for other school districts, PAUSD can help to promote the appropriate adoption of this technology in education and pave the way for a more innovative and effective approach to teaching and learning.
Feedback Requested for Next Year's Promise Goals
Palo Alto Unified Summer Opportunity / Sustainability-Inspired Jobs Week
Palo Alto Unified has a Strong Workforce grant with Ignited. The district is co-hosting an Industry Experience Week on sustainability-inspired jobs during the summer of 2023. The Ignited experience enables teachers and staff to learn about industries and careers that generate classroom-ready ideas among students. These opportunities focus on: water stewardship, biotechnology, architectural engineering, and more. Participants can learn from in-person tours, job shadows, and employee panels while earning $1,100 to develop industry-aligned learning experiences for students. Contact Director of Innovation and Agility Jeong Choe <firstname.lastname@example.org> to learn more and to apply at this time.
Ad Hoc Committee Update
The Elementary Behavior Supports and Mental Health Ad Hoc Committees met prior to Spring Break. To access minutes from each committee, please visit our website. Approximately 80 ad hoc committee meetings during this school year cover 12 complex topics. The district is grateful for the more than 170 individuals contributing time and diverse viewpoints to build consensus.
Mental Health and Wellness Parent Sessions
In response to the recent PAUSD parent education sessions with the Children's Health Council (CHC), please find links to the recordings and slide decks below. Spanish translation can be found in the notes section of the slides. Also included are links to CHC's resources and the annual breakfast event scheduled for Wednesday, May 3, 2023.
Mental Health and Wellness is now planning to offer these parent education sessions in Spanish with CHC's bilingual clinicians. The department will share details in the near future.
Setting & Sustaining Healthy Habits for PK-8th Grade Students (Presented March 20)
The Pressures of High School: Supporting our Students' Mental Health (Presented March 27)
The 10th annual Children's Health Council Breakfast on May 3 features Christine Carter, Ph.D. The theme is "Your Roadmap to Raising Thriving Youth" (with a focus on teens and young adults). Dr. Carter will share thoughts from her recent book, The New Adolescence, followed by a dynamic discussion based on scientific research and practical applications with CHC's Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Ramsey Khasho.
Future Chef Challenge Winner
On March 29, Sodexo and the PAUSD Student Nutrition Services hosted the 12th annual Future Chef National Challenge for elementary students. The 2023 grand prize winner for PAUSD is Melissa Kohli of Palo Verde Elementary School. Her recipe is titled Superhero Fuel Bites. The Future Chef Challenge is a fun way to encourage student thinking and relates to the importance of not only eating healthy, but also cooking and enjoying scratch-made, inspiring side dishes.
The PAUSD grand prize winner's recipe will be judged in a national competition. Selected finalists will then create individual YouTube videos preparing recipes to be viewed nationwide and voted on by parents and students beginning April 22.
Talent From Three PAUSD Middle Schools ROCK the Stage
Students from Fletcher Middle, Greene Middle, and Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle are blending talents and contributing skills as actors, singers, dancers, designers, and technicians in an action-packed performance. For three days, next weekend, students from each PAUSD middle school are bringing a pop-culture phenomenon to the musical stage. The well-known Schoolhouse Rock Live ! excites learning for all ages.
The 1970s Emmy Award-winning cartoon series teaches history, grammar, and math. Its memorable, thoughtful, and clever tunes have been a phenomenon on the small screen since its inception. Schoolhouse Rock Live ! follows a schoolteacher who is nervous about his first day in the classroom. He tries to relax by watching television when various characters representing facets of his personality emerge from the screen and show him how to inspire students with imagination and music. Songs including "Just a Bill," "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly" and "Conjunction Junction" still evoke memories.
Schoolhouse Rock Live ! awaits your attendance at Gunn High School on Friday, April 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and also Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door: $5 (students) and $10 (adults).
2023 Palo Alto Unified Annual K-12 Youth Art Show
The Annual K-12 Youth Art Show opens at the Palo Alto Art Center April 29. The Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) office and the visual art teachers are busy collecting and matting artwork to prepare for this exciting display of creativity. Youth Art celebrates the imaginative spirit of PAUSD students, and it features a sampling of nearly 500 visual artwork representing Grades K - 12.
"How Does Art Sustain Us?" is this year's theme. It demonstrates how creative realization is discovered through artistic risk taking, fortitude, and personal expression. Students, parents, and community members are asked to think about the ways art sustains humans as participants in the creation of art and as viewers of the art show. The show will be on display beginning April 29 and ending May 21 at the Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road in Palo Alto.
The opening night event is Wednesday May 3, 4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. It will also include the talents of both Gunn High School Jazz and Palo Alto High Choirs.