ELEMENTARY LITERACY UPDATE - ONE DISTRICT’S EFFORT TO ADDRESS AND SUPPORT STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA
The Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) were invited to lead a roundtable discussion at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s 24th Annual Coaching Institute on the Teaching of Reading: Grades K-8. Over 40 instructional/literacy coaches, curriculum leaders, administrators, and professional learning developers attended this presentation. The presentation focused on PAUSD’s effort to address and support all students who struggle with learning to read; more specifically, those with dyslexia.
The TOSA team began by detailing how PAUSD examined various dyslexia screeners before implementing the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreenTM in all K-3 classrooms this year. The team then outlined the current collaboration work with the reading specialists to finalize the elementary dyslexia screening and identification process flowchart. Lastly, the TOSAs shared the District’s vision to provide professional development for teachers around multi-sensory reading strategies.
During the open forum, various districts from across the country shared their dyslexia work and the opportunities and challenges they face. As PAUSD advocates for equitable learning for all students, we are reminded that we are not alone in this considerable endeavor.
MIDDLE SCHOOL COMMON WRITING ASSESSMENT: BACKGROUND
Students in 6th and 7th grades have recently finished taking the new Districtwide Common Writing Assessment (CWA), and 8th grade students will have their turn during the week of February 3. The purpose of the CWA is to provide teachers, students, and parents with a meaningful, mid-year snapshot of student writing progress. This assessment is (in)formative in nature and intended to:
- give teachers information to guide instruction and intervention for the remainder of the year, as well as an opportunity to align their teaching and grading practices with colleagues across the District;
- give students information to guide self-reflection and continued learning; and
- give parents one tool for understanding their child’s development as a writer.
Years ago, at the start of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, PAUSD administered the Educational Records Bureau’s (ERB) Writing Assessment Program, or WrAP, a norm-referenced writing assessment scored using a Six Traits rubric. The decision to sunset ERB administration in the 2015-16 school year was guided by teachers, who determined that the assessment was not relevant to the writing students were doing in class, and that the results were not provided in a timely enough manner to be useful. Sites were told that a common writing assessment would need to be developed to replace ERB.
At JLS, English teachers had already begun discussions about common writing vocabulary and expectations. The English Department developed its first common writing rubric and Writing Handbook in 2011-12, and the following year, teachers piloted the first JLS common writing assessment. Starting in 2013-14, the first school-wide CWA was administered and scored at JLS, and in the intervening years, English teachers refined and tweaked their assessments, as well as their scoring and calibration days. Fletcher did not begin developing its CWA until 2013-14, but drawing on the experiences at JLS and using the Smarter Balanced Assessment’s Writing Performance Task as a model, the Fletcher English Department was able to condense its timeline for creating the CWA to one year.
Teachers developed, administered, and scored grade-level CWAs during the 2013-14 school year and, similarly to JLS, spent the intervening years refining key aspects of their assessments. Greene developed a site-wide writing goal and teachers from all disciplines worked on aligning writing vocabulary. In 2015-16, teachers committed to giving pre- and post-writing assessments of writing. These assessments, as well as the rubrics used, were grade-level and department-specific. The development and implementation of the current Districtwide middle school CWA has thus been strongly informed by the good work that was already underway at each school.
MIDDLE SCHOOL LITERATURE COMMITTEE: STILL READING!
Although the Middle School Literature Committee is not meeting this month, members are hard at work vetting new literature for grades 6-8. Keeping Emily Style’s “Curriculum as Window and Mirror” (1988) in mind, members are looking for texts that simultaneously allow students “to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see [their] own reality reflected.” Reading groups are using teacher recommendations, awards lists, book lists, and reviews to help guide their reading of books that will both broaden and reflect students’ experiences. The committee will convene again on February 26. To learn more about the committee and its process, please visit the Committees and Task Forces tab on the District’s webpage.
SPECIAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT UPDATES
The Special Education Leadership Team welcomed Marissa Ciardella, a new elementary Special Education Program Coordinator, to the department this week. She comes to PAUSD by way of Milpitas Unified School District and brings with her a wealth of knowledge. We encourage you to give Marissa a warm welcome when you meet her!
FOOTHILL MIDDLE COLLEGE
The Middle College expansion is in process! The long-awaited increase in Middle College enrollment opportunities will become a reality for the 2020-21 school year.
Middle College staff shared the information below about upcoming events.
Are you a bright, curious free-thinker, who is yearning for a more mature environment? Are you looking for a supportive and accepting community? Are you capable of doing college level work? Foothill Middle College is now recruiting students from Palo Alto Unified and Mountain View-Los Altos High School Districts for the 2020-21 school year.
Middle College is an alternative program that serves bright students who may not be performing up to their full potential, or students who are dissatisfied with the traditional high school environment. Located on the Foothill College campus, Middle College offers students the opportunity to concurrently attend high school and college classes. Students accepted into the Middle College program leave their home school and take all of their classes on the Foothill College campus. Every Middle College student completes graduation requirements and receives a diploma from his/her home school. Come meet the teachers and learn moreabout the program at these events:
• Middle College Informational Meetings for Prospective Students
February 3, 2020 @ 11:35am – Palo Alto High School, College & Career Center
February 6, 2020 @ 10:05am – Gunn High School, College & Career Center
• Middle College Open House for Interested Parents & Students
March 10 & March 18, 2020 @ 6:30pm – Foothill College, Appreciation Hall, Bldg.1500
(Parking is $3.00. Machines accept credit/debit cards and cash, including all bills.)
Department of Equity and Student Affairs
SANTA CLARA COUNTYMIDDLE SCHOOL YOUTH CONFERENCE
PAUSD’s District social worker coordinated this year’s field trip to the annual Middle School Conference at Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) on Thursday, January 30.
Students from Greene, Fletcher, and JLS middle schools and staff volunteers participated in the 4th Annual Middle School Youth Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Creation Nation: Wear your art on your sleeve,” which focuses on the importance of each person’s value and unique creativity. Sessions highlighted how creative expression can be used as a coping mechanism to help overcome life’s challenges and help build resiliency. Keynote Speaker, Dee Hankins kicked the day off with his inspiring life story and how resilience really is everything. He told the packed room, “Resilience isn’t about forgetting what hurt you, but finding the things that keep you going. If you are here, you have survived 100% of your worst days and life has given you another opportunity to be amazing or to help someone else.”
The conference also included a variety of sessions led by community organizations and youth to focus on teaching stress management, dealing with peer pressure, and developing healthy relationships and habits. Students were able to choose from 15 different workshops that included topics such as:
- Win Your Challenges;
- Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community;
- Take a Breather!;
- Stereotypes-Accepting and Embracing Diversity;
- Preparing for High School;
- Teen Drug & Alcohol Awareness; and many more.
Many thanks to our District and school staff for working to make this trip possible for our students.
HIGH SCHOOL WELLNESS CENTERS
Wellness Center activities in January focused on reflecting on accomplishments and challenges of the past year. At Gunn this week, students were asked during Flex Period to think about goals they have set for themselves for the rest of the school year and beyond. We wanted students to develop goals that are specific, measurable, realistic, and time-based (S.M.A.R.T). The team at the Wellness Center is also developing goals for the outreach projects planned for the community.
PAUSD LEADS THE WAY WITH REUSABLE FOODWARE PROGRAM
This past September, PAUSD transitioned all 12 elementary school sites from single-use foodware to reusable foodware. To quantify the impacts of the transition, PAUSD partnered with ReThink Disposable, a program of the Clean Water Action Fund. Through careful analysis of the data associated with the switch, ReThink Disposable concluded that this switch earns PAUSD an annual net savings of $25,000. Additionally, the reusable foodware program eliminates over 430,000 individual pieces of disposable packaging annually and diverts more than 8,000 pounds of waste. This program has garnered national attention as school districts around the country look toward PAUSD as a pioneering model for waste reduction. The full case study by ReThink Disposable is available here.
HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL ANTICIPATED HIRING TIMELINE
- Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Positions posted on Edjoin, LinkedIn.
- Monday, February 3, 2020: Jobs posted on EdCal for the February 3 and 10 issues.
- Tuesday, February 18, 2020: Postings close; prescreening and initial reference checks occur.
- Friday, March 13, 2020: New Principals announced; Posted on Board Agenda.
Needs Assessments meetings are being held with both Paly and Gunn staff, students, and parents next week.
For full access to the Press Release of Personnel Changes as well as the complete Timeline, please visit the PAUSD webpage.
Our first Wellness Wednesday was a success. PAUSD employees were at JLS on Wednesday after school for a relaxing yoga class.
The next wellness classes include Cycle at the Paly Spin Studio on February 26, and Art at the District Office on March 25. We encourage staff members to join us to connect with others and spend an hour focused on health and wellness.
CAREER AND ADVANCEMENT FAIR
The Human Resources Department is excited to announce the second annual PAUSD Career and Advancement Fair, which will be held at Palo Alto High School in the Peery Family Center Gym on Saturday, March 14. The Peery Center will be open from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Interviews and other activities will take place from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Thanks in advance for supporting our efforts to recruit and retain an excellent workforce in PAUSD.
SCHOOLOGY PARENT ACCOUNTS
For parents and guardians who did not have a Schoology account in the past, welcome to Schoology! On Tuesday, January 28, an automation process was enabled to create and manage Schoology accounts for all parents and guardians in the District. This will allow us to provide consistent Schoology support and a common experience for students, staff, and parents/guardians.
Accessing Schoology is now easier than ever through the PAUSD Parent Portal (id.pausd.org), our District single sign-on. Now, after logging in to id.pausd.org, parents and guardians will have access to multiple PAUSD tools such as Infinite Campus and Schoology.
All PAUSD parents and guardians are automatically enrolled in a course on Schoology called the “PAUSD Schoology Backpack.” This course provides information and step-by-step instructions for how to use Schoology and access important information. This course is also a model for what students might experience in Schoology. Taking a few minutes to explore the “PAUSD Schoology Backpack” is recommended for all parents/guardians.
For support with the PAUSD Parent Portal (id.pausd.org) or Schoology, please submit a help desk ticket through PAUSD’s communication platform, Let’s Talk! Additionally, please see our Schoology Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.