March 29, 2019

Education Services


As part of PAUSD’s ongoing curriculum review and renewal cycle, planning is underway for the establishment of a Middle School English Literature Selection Advisory Committee. English will be following in the footsteps of math, history-social studies, and science, all of which have recently adopted, or are in the process of adopting, new instructional programs. The Middle School Literature Committee will be reviewing the California Department of Education (CDE)-approved literature for grades 6, 7, and 8. The committee will identify literature for closer examination and potential piloting in the classroom. It also intends to continue with the past practice of recommending two CDE-approved core literature texts, at each grade-level, to the Board for adoption. Additionally, the committee will submit a menu of supplementary literature texts which teachers will have the option of using in their classrooms. Additional information will be shared once a timeline has been developed.


On March 26, with the help of cross-disciplinary and mixed-grade level colleagues, the 6th grade Fletcher English team scored approximately 210 Common Writing Assessments – not once, but twice! Each 6th grade essay was scored anonymously by two readers and received a holistic score of Proficient, Developing, or Emerging. A score of Proficient describes end-of-year grade-level expectations. This scoring day concludes this year’s Common Writing Assessment administration at Fletcher. Seventh- and eighth-grade essays were scored separately in January.


On March 28, the Greene 7th grade history/social science teachers worked on aligning curriculum. Teachers calibrated scoring of a recent argumentative writing assignment and reviewed Harvard Writing Center’s “Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper.” The team also developed a common writing assessment for an upcoming unit, identified source documents, and created a common scoring rubric.


This week, teacher teams at both Greene Middle School and Gunn High School collaborated in course-alike teams of teachers to “unpack” the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), develop units of study, and deconstruct steps students will take to show mastery of performance expectations. The teams also discussed assessment strategies that enhance content understanding and are reflecting these important shifts in science education.


Gunn students, enrolled in AP CS Principles, hosted a group of 27 students and 2 teachers visiting from Gefion Gymnasium in Denmark. The Gunn students ranged from 9th-12th grade, and the Gefion students were slightly older, ranging from age 17 to 19. The students worked together to create a simulation of a fair die roll. Although most of the visiting students had never programmed, they were able to fully participate in the problem-solving challenge, and learned a little Snap!, a block-based, serious programming language, from UC Berkeley. Snap!, is the language and environment commonly used in AP CS Principles. Gunn students taught Gefion students how to utilize Snap!’s randomization and looping capabilities. Students presented their projects at the end of the period.


Last weekend, 34 students and 44 parents, along with Family Engagement Specialists (FES) and Academic Supports staff, attended the ALAS Conference at San Jose State University (SJSU). The primary purpose of the conference is to promote the expansion of a college-going culture among Latino youth living in Santa Clara County. Workshops, for both students and families, covered topics on college admission requirements, paying for college, college pathways, and the college application process. The highlight of the day was the campus tour. Students were able to learn more about programs offered at SJSU, and learn biographical information about alumni. Students and parents expressed positive feedback and left the conference feeling more prepared for college. One parent shared, “After the conference, my daughter, who did not want to attend today, was looking up scholarships on the trip home.”  Another parent said, “I never knew there were so many options to help pay for colleges.” One student remarked, “Getting into college seems so much easier now that I know what to do.”


This week marks the wrap-up of our final workshop in the New Hire Equity Series. The Equity series, a foundation of professional learning for many years, was redesigned this year. The updated model includes a full-day workshop in the fall to create a common foundation around equity issues in education. Participants select from a menu of follow-up options, each of which explores equity through a different lens. All workshops include an exploration of pertinent District data and are linked to expectations outlined in the California Standards for the Teaching Profession. Using an equity lens, participants explore school and classroom climate and culture, instructional strategies, and the diversity of PAUSD students. After spring break, teachers will form focus groups to help evaluate strengths and next steps related to this workshop series.


The Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) shared the documents for the Spring Writing Calibration. Elementary schools have paired to ensure consistent scoring of their students' on-demand, informational writing samples. District alignment data is used to monitor student progress and drive instructional shifts to support improved student learning.


On Saturday, March 23, the Elementary TOSA Team and four Palo Alto Elementary teachers launched the first of four SABE Math days at Fairmeadow Elementary. Thirty-nine 4th and 5th graders from across the District attended. The students rotated through three classrooms while working on Bridges Intervention curriculum, DreamBox, small-group Number Talks, Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) Tasks, and Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) Engineering. The first session was a great success. Many students commented that they were eager to return. The next Saturday SABE Math Academy School is on April 13.


The Elementary STEAM Inquiry Group met on Thursday, March 21, to discuss the California Science Test (CAST) and the resources available for 5th grade teachers. In addition, they continued exploring the state-adopted science curriculum resources.

The group is composed of instructional leaders tasked in supporting with the transition from our previous science standards to a more integrated STEAM Education approach, and support teachers with embracing and embedding the NGSS within their instructional practices.

The committee has met throughout the year to learn more about the NGSS, explore STEAM Education opportunities, and implement innovative educational curriculum and instructional approaches.

Strategic Initiatives and Operations


The Special Education Department is excited about El Carmelo’s Buddy System. General education students in 3rd-5th grades are volunteering in the Learning Center. Under the supervision of teachers and student attendants, the general education students work closely with students in the Learning Center. The Buddy System creates peer relationships between special education students and general education students. This is a great way to build social skills and an inclusive school community.


This week, Fletcher Middle School hosted 75 elementary and middle school students in a Special Olympics School Partnership Basketball Tournament. Students from eight schools of all abilities made up unified teams to play other school sites and demonstrate their basketball skills. The schools partnership program works to have students with and without disabilities participate together in sports activities that promote inclusion. Come and see the program for yourself. Our last event of the year will be a Track and Field Meet at Gunn High School on April 26. 


The news about alleged cheating and bribery in college admissions have evoked a wide range of responses in our community. This scandal hits on the uncertainty around the college application and admission process, and highlights the fears students and families experience and the toll these matters can take on student and family well-being. During times like these, it is important for our community to know that we are fortunate to have robust resources and support points for students and families at our schools. 

At our high schools, Teacher Advisors/Social Emotional Literacy and Functionality (SELF) mentors, school counselors, college and career advisors and our Wellness Center Teams, provide academic, social, emotional, and college/career counseling for all of our students. These professionals are dedicated to the health and well-being of all students – supporting their academic needs, interests, and post-high school planning. From course selection to college applications, they counsel students and parents to find balance and define success and fulfillment for themselves. Staff meet with all students and will initiate interventions for students in need of additional support. Families and students are also encouraged to contact their school counselor, visit the College & Career Center, or drop-in to the Wellness Center if they have a question or need help of any kind. When considering post-high school options, students and families are encouraged to be open to various paths, to explore and apply to colleges broadly with a focus on finding schools that “fit” their individual academic, social, and financial goals rather than the name or reputation of a college.   


School and health staff have been updated on this week’s advisory from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. The advisory warns of possible measles exposure in Santa Clara County between Saturday, March 16, and Friday, March 22. Please see the full advisory and specific times and locations of possible exposure.

Health staff will be monitoring communication from the Public Health Department and will be monitoring for common symptoms of the measles. Common symptoms of the measles can appear 7 to 21 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash. Any person with these symptoms is encouraged to stay home and contact their doctor right away for follow-up.  

For more information on the measles, please visit the Santa Clara County Public Health Department website


We are coming up on Spring Break, and the Wellness Centers and school-based counselors, therapists, and psychologist will not be accessible. We wanted to provide students and families with some mental health safety and emergency information should you need it over the break. If you are a Santa Clara County resident, please reach out to Uplift Family Services Mobile Crisis Line at 408-379-9085. They will triage over the phone and come out to your location for assistance as needed. If you are a San Mateo County resident, or if there is a mental health emergency, please call 911 and request a Crisis Intervention Team member (CIT) to come out to your location to assist you. You can also call StarVista at 650-579-0350 for a 24/7 phone crisis consultation. An additional option is to reach out through the crisis text line by texting “Hello” to 741741. We hope every student and family has a restful, restorative, and festive break!


Congratulations to all of the parents who completed the spring cycle of Parent Project. The Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) and PAUSD honored the parents and their families on Thursday, March 28, with a graduation ceremony and dinner. Parent Project is a 12-week parenting skills program that provides practical tools to help parents find solutions in addressing challenging adolescent behaviors and strengthen family unity. Participants expressed their appreciation of the curriculum, discussions, and belonging to a cohort of other parents. 

The next cycle of Parent Project is scheduled for the fall, and it will be held each Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. The program is taught in English and Spanish by instructors from both the PAPD and PAUSD. Please contact Agent Brad Young at 650-329-2274, or Lissette Moore-Guerra, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), at 650-329-3722 to save your space. There is a cost for participating in this program, but financial aid is available. 


The LGBTQ+ Council Meeting took place this past Monday, March 25, from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. The council reviewed feedback from the Equity Professional Learning Workshops: Sexual Orientation, Gender, Identity and Expression (SOGIE) 1.0 and 2.0. Members reviewed questions from the California School Climate Health and Learning Surveys (CalSCHLS) survey related to LGBTQ+ youth to ensure the language being used is inclusive of the diversity of our school population. Council members brainstormed ways to utilize community events, workshops, and using multiple platforms and modalities to increase opportunities to develop and support an all-inclusive and representative approach to teaching and learning that promotes school success. All who are interested are welcome to attend and participate in the LGBTQ+ Council. The next and last meeting is on Monday, April 29, at 4:00 p.m. in the Aspen room at the District Office.


The Gunn High School Wellness Center and Counseling Department is moving into Gunn’s new central building after Spring Break. The Wellness Center will be located on the second floor and students, staff, and parents alike will be able to drop in. We will have an expanded space for students to engage in wellness activities, a student wellness resource corner, tea/snack area, expressive arts group, and a new meditation/quiet space as well. Our new location will provide students with direct access to their school counselors and on-campus therapists. The Wellness Center has been designed to centralize services in order to provide students easy access, privacy to high quality care, and destigmatizing care to all students on our campus. Thank you to Gunn High School, the community, and Board of Education for prioritizing this project!


Technology has progressed society forward to a world that is safer, more advanced, and more entertaining. In 2018, Pew Research Center found that 45% of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly.” While teens find positive contributions that social media plays in their lives, such as improving social connections and increased communication with family and friends, there are also significant negative effects. An increase in anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, and decreased self-confidence are just some of the negative ways social media impacts teens. Wellness Center staff are encouraging students to take a break! Students, staff, and parents can sign up to participate in our Digital Detox, for even one day, and get a prize from the Wellness Center. To participate, students should sign up here. There are four ways to participate:

  • No phone and social media use after 7:00 p.m.
  • Take several 15-minute breaks with no phone and social media use
  • Full day with no phone and social media use
  • Half-day with no phone and social media use


Paly Wellness & Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) invite all PAUSD parents, staff, and the Board of Education to “The Foundations of Success: Modeling What We Want Most for Our Kids” on April 17 from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at the Paly Media Arts Center. The event will focus on understanding, practicing, and applying foundational social-emotional learning skills.   

Participants will be invited to learn three powerful practices that we can use at home with our kids to strengthen the skills they need for success in school and beyond. Colleges, employers, and researchers emphasize now more than ever the importance of social-emotional skills in sustaining achievement, advancement, and fulfillment in all areas of life. Often referred to as “soft” or “non-cognitive” skills, these skills are in fact the solid foundation atop which all meaningful learning, relationships, and productivity are built. Beyond that, they are a source of strength, endurance, and resilience in the face of struggle, and are as relevant to us as adults as they are to our kids. Join us for an evening focused on what we can do as a community to bolster not just our kids’ happiness and success.  Please RSVP through Eventbrite.