January 12, 2018

Elementary Education

Response to Intervention (RTI)

RTI is a problem-solving process which includes the provision of systematic, research-based instruction and interventions to assist struggling learners. It assumes that the instruction/interventions are matched to student needs and the monitoring of progress is continuous. RTI is an early intervention framework to prevent long-term academic failure. This multi-tiered system of support is a general education initiative which utilizes data through multiple assessments to inform decision making. Interventions are based on research and dependent on continuous progress monitoring. There are three tiers in this model:

Tier 1 is primarily the group interventions within the general education classroom. It is core instruction for all students and best teaching practices. Differentiated lessons will usually provide the results necessary for progress for about 80-90% of students. Tier 1 is a collaborative practice between the teacher and the school staff.

Tier 2 is when some students do not make adequate progress in Tier 1 and more targeted services and interventions, usually in small group settings, are provided in addition to the instruction in the general curriculum. Tier 2 is Tier 1 plus strategic interventions beyond the classroom teacher. Intervention strategies implemented by other school staff or specialists in addition to general education classroom strategies and interventions, which may take place inside or outside the classroom. Progress is monitored more closely and research-based interventions could last about 6-8 weeks.

Tier 3 focuses on very few students who do not adequately respond to the targeted interventions in Tier 2. Additional small group or one-on-one interventions may be tried, or additional testing may be warranted to determine more intensive interventions. Intensive interventions are conducted outside the general education classroom. Students may be referred to the Student Success Team (SST) process; and there may also be preliminary consideration of eligibility for Special Education.

All PK-5 schools have developed and implemented a yearly dedicated RTI Plan addressing the specific needs of struggling learners. Schools utilize an RTI Monitoring Tool which gathers the data from the progress monitoring efforts that carefully measures progress.

Elementary PK-5 Bridges Math Survey

Currently, over 275 parents have responded to the online survey to provide feedback on the implementation of our new PK-5 math curriculum. Parents have responded to questions about their child’s math experience and their own parental experience with the implementation of the new Bridges math curriculum. The deadline to respond to the survey is Tuesday, January 16. 

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)/Science Lending Library

Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA) have developed an extensive lending library that is housed at our Science Resource Center (SRC). The library houses a variety of NGSS/Science resources, materials, games, and equipment for teachers to engage students in Science inquiry. The Palo Alto City Utilities Grant Program has afforded teachers an opportunity to write grants in support of science units on water, energy, conservation, and efficiency.

California Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Symposium

On December 10 and 11, the Elementary TOSA Team had the pleasure and privilege of attending the annual CA (STEAM) Symposium. Formerly the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Symposium, this year’s conference, in San Francisco, incorporated arts integration. Nearly 3,000 educators from across California participated in rigorous, collaborative, and inspiring professional learning to support high-quality instruction for all students in science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

Keynotes and sessions addressed themes of Access and Equity, Design Thinking and Engineering, English Language Learners, Integrating Environmental Literacy, Makers and Makerspace, and more. PAUSD was represented in a session by two of our own Elementary TOSAs, Leslie Faust and Joe Young. Leslie and Joe presented on our District’s Maker Movement, from dedicated school Makerspaces, to the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR)/Elementary Ed Creativity Carts and the STEAM Lending Library. Participants in the session learned about these three efforts that addresses Creativity, Mobility, and Equity.

PK-5 Maker’s Spaces

Currently Barron Park, Fairmeadow, and Walter Hays have established Makerspaces. The Maker Studio at Barron Park, the Design Studio at Fairmeadow, and the Makerspace at Walter Hays focuses on providing students with an opportunity to gain experiences in the Engineering Design Process. Other PK-5 schools have been provided maker’s carts through a very unique collaboration and partnership with Elementary Education and the AAR Department. The creativity carts are equipped with a variety of innovative supplies, materials, gadgets, and materials ready to spark the creativity of young minds eager to explore and create. The Vision of AAR speaks to this project: “to engage students in guided and personalized projects that promote the cultivation of skills in respect to design research and develop self-advocacy.”

Professional Learning

February Professional Learning Day

The February Professional Learning Day will provide opportunities for all staff to work collaboratively towards District goals. Elementary teachers will spend the morning in grade-alike groups to deepen their knowledge of and share best practices in the Bridges mathematics curriculum. Also, principals will lead their staff in the afternoon in learning activities that focus on site goals.

Supports for All Students

In late January we will once again launch our Supports for All Students blended professional learning course. This course was designed by a PAUSD group consisting of representatives from professional learning, research evaluation and assessment, and special education. The course is structured around three modules:  1) building knowledge of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), universal tools, and designated supports; 2) partnering with students to identify needs and potential supports; and 3) designing, teaching and reflecting on lessons that integrate supports to meet student needs. The course is Schoology-driven and launches January 22, under the expert facilitation of Heather Johanson (Paly, Special Education).

Planning for Summer 2018

Plans for summer professional learning are already underway! In December, approximately 150 elementary teachers indicated their interest and availability for workshops focused on key District initiatives. So far, we are planning to host both beginning and advanced Responsive Classroom sessions and an Advanced Reading Workshop session. Stay tuned for additional opportunities focused on the new social studies curriculum.

Academic Support and Equity Initiatives

On Tuesday, January 9, the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), Academic Supports department launched the first segment of the Equity Lecture Series. Tyrone C. Howard, PhD. was the featured keynote lecturer. Dr. Howard has over 30 years of educational teaching and leadership experience, with deep roots in Southern California, as a native of Compton, California. Now, as a full time Professor of Education at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where he continues to develop his innovative research and systematic applications to educational reform, he is an expert in the following areas:

  • Social and political context of schools
  • Urban education
  • Equity and access within urban and suburban schools
  • Social studies education
  • Educational experience of African American students
  • Multicultural education

The focus of the conversation was to engage participants by introducing the important role(s) that race and culture have on teaching, learning and various forms of academic, cultural, and environmental equity. Important data, concepts, knowledge, and skills were shared to increase racial awareness and improve cultural competence, with the intent of exposing participants to strategies, resources, skills, and approaches that can create inclusive classrooms for all learners. Some of the following components were highlighted throughout his lecture:

  • Racial awareness in the classroom
  • Developing cultural competence
  • How poverty intersects with race, culture, and gender

The Palo Alto community received Dr. Howard and his expertise with open arms. The room was filled to capacity, with support from PAUSD staff, students, parents, and interested stakeholders from other school districts/organizations throughout the Bay Area.

The series will continue beyond this initial offering. Multiple district platforms will be used to advertise future events. Every occurrence will remain open to the public and maintain accommodations for translations and childcare as we want to maximize participation and honor inclusivity for all participants.

In closing, if you desire any information or would like general support concerning the lecture series, please contact: Keith Wheeler, kwheeler@pausd.org.