October 25, 2019

Office of the Superintendent


Santa Clara County Supervisors Meeting Confusion

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors held their meeting in Palo Alto on October 22 to discuss the Stanford General Use Permit (GUP) application. Some process issues arose during the meeting, contributing to confusion about our understanding with Stanford University and their commitment to financially support our schools despite building tax-exempt housing.   

On October 23, Stanford University clarified their position as it relates to our agreement and their building plans. The statement from Stanford University reads:

In light of the confusion in the press about our remarks at last night’s hearing on Stanford’s General Use Permit application, we are taking this opportunity to set the record straight. We will not accept the General Use Permit unless we obtain an accompanying Development Agreement. We are standing by our commitments to PAUSD and enclose our signed agreement.

Additional information and updated infographic are available on our webpage.

Education Services


With the new Science Framework, there are a number of shifts between how students learned science under the previous 1998 standards, and under the current NGSS. In the previous framework, students were asked to demonstrate knowledge of facts such as “know substances can be classified by their properties, including their melting temperature, density, hardness, and thermal and electrical conductivity (8th grade).”  This focus on facts often led to shallow understanding, or memorization, without appreciation of how ideas fit together. In contrast, in a NGSS middle school chemistry class, students learn that “each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties that can be used to identify it.” Just learning this piece of information is not the whole picture. Rather, this is nested into two performance expectations. One is MS-PS1-2 which states:

“Students who demonstrate understanding can analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.”

To get to this endpoint, students will start with explaining a phenomenon, an authentic event that students experience in daily life or through an investigation. A phenomenon might be an experiment in which they mix together household chemicals and notice if something new is generated, or if there is a change in temperature. The next learning sequences are then carefully designed to help students gather information to explain this phenomenon, with evidence, in greater and greater detail.

In an NGSS classroom, the idea that pure substances have characteristic physical and chemical properties is an example of a Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI), or to rephrase, what scientists and engineers know. To fully meet this expectation, students also need skills with another dimension of the NGSS – they need to be adept at analyzing and interpreting data. This is a Science and Engineering Practice, or an example of what scientists and engineers do. Finally, in this task, they are prompted to look for patterns to find out if a chemical reaction has occurred. Understanding patterns is important for all scientific disciplines. This Crosscutting Concept is an example of how scientists think. The NGSS logo is a color-coded mobius strip, which represents how all three aspects of scientific thinking are needed in concert. We call this three-dimensional learning; when students use a science and engineering practice to learn important scientific ideas through the larger understanding (lens) of a crosscutting concept.

Another change for the NGSS is for coherent instruction across grade levels, by spiraling fewer, but central, concepts through the grade levels. The NGSS have useful tables to show how the same concepts are introduced in early grades and then fleshed out with more nuance and detail as the child grows and progresses. In addition, these performance expectations are aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in both mathematics and English/Language Arts (ELA). Learning with the three-dimensional approach is only done when ELA and/or mathematical skills are applied in science courses.

These shifts require considerable professional learning and time to implement. Even a small shift such as rewriting a lab so that it does not confirm a predetermined outcome (often what the students read in a textbook) takes time and teacher craft. In an NGSS classroom, teachers will reimagine lessons and labs to fit into a larger storyline that helps explain the phenomenon. They have to adjust lessons based on student interest, as students plan, implement, and refine investigations with a range of possible outcomes in order to deepen understanding of these core scientific ideas.

For the past six years, science teachers in PAUSD have been growing in awareness and implementation of the NGSS. There were some overt structural changes, such as adding some new topics (not previously addressed), moving some topics to different grade levels, and discussing the Integrated Science and Discipline Specific models for organizing the middle grades. In high school, teams also discussed the choice to offer three years of Integrated Science or continue with the designations of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. However, to meet the new philosophy that All Students Learn All Standards, high school courses were reimagined to fold in related Earth and Space Science concepts. After studying the template discussed in the Framework, our teams researched how other districts were solving this puzzle. Through much discussion, our teachers based their course design on the template from San Francisco Unified School District. 

Behind the scenes, there are many other changes taking place as teachers continue their journey with professional learning, including PLC work with course-alike team members, release days, and the action research approach to trying new things out with their students to see how it works. Currently middle school teachers are in the phase of looking for appropriate science materials in an adoption cycle. They have been impressed with the power of teaching through explaining phenomena and working with a storyline that captures the hearts and minds of students. The high school teams are using the Five Tools Protocol and working in cross-school teams to develop storylines that embrace the layers and nuances of teaching with the three-dimensional approach.  They are also grappling with ideas behind assessing students differently to reflect the performance-based nature of the NGSS. This has been a heavy lift, as it represents a considerable redesign of science education. Our capable teachers have met the challenges with teamwork, creativity, and tireless dedication to excellent science education.


This past weekend, the Elementary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) attended the CSEC at the San Jose Convention Center, hosted by the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA). These powerful NGSS sessions provided access to cross-curricular integration, storylines, and phenomenon. Additionally, the workshops focused on how NGSS lends itself to scaffolded sensemaking through Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and cultural responsiveness, and ways to implement NGSS with a lens of equity and access. It was helpful to learn from other districts as they shared their journey with NGSS implementation and adoption, as well as have opportunities to discuss strengths, challenges, and empowering professional development practices along the way. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet with and learn from other science educators.


On October 17, the Elementary Science Pilot and Adoption Committee met for a full day of exploration. They were able to prescreen all 11 state-approved science programs. Each program was reviewed by both a primary (K-2) and an upper (3-5) grade level group. Data was collected using the "First Impressions: Pluses and Minuses" system, along with the Prescreening Tool from the California Next Generation Science Standards Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation (CA NGSS TIME). This data will be presented collectively at the December 16, 2019, Science Pilot Adoption Committee meeting, where the committee will make recommendations for those programs moving on to Paper Screening in February.


On October 23, English teachers from Fletcher, Greene, and JLS Middle Schools, gathered at Fletcher to continue working on the Districtwide Common Writing Assessment (CWA) for grades 6-8. In May and September, teacher teams took release days to decide on a genre, construct a prompt, choose source materials, and design a common rubric for each assessment. At the Joint Middle School meeting, staff focused on completing print-ready assessment materials and finishing audio recordings and slideshows for implementation. The CWA will be administered across the District as follows:

  • 6th grade:  Jan. 13–17, 2020
  • 7th grade:  Dec. 9–13, 2019
  • 8th grade:  Feb. 3–7, 2020

Also, on October 23, middle school history/social science teachers met at Fletcher to calibrate argumentative writing samples. Teachers read and sorted student papers into four categories: emerging, developing, proficient, and advanced. Afterwards, teachers discussed which criteria they had used when sorting papers, and used that discussion to begin developing a common definition of proficiency; deciding what it means to achieve grade-level proficiency in argumentative writing, and determining which grade to assign to proficient work.


The Special Education Department met with the Director of Professional Learning to review the Induction Program, and the New Hire Equity Workshop series, to identify ways to align professional learning. The Special Education and Professional Learning departments are planning to work collaboratively to provide workshops for teachers. 

The Behavior Support Team (BST) met with the Special Education Department to provide an update on the development of a video library of behavioral strategies, which staff will be able to access to support students.

Department of Equity and Student Affairs


The Department of Academic Supports held the 2nd VTP Community Conversation for the 2019-20 school year at the East Palo Alto YMCA on October 22. District personnel shared the feedback from September 25 meeting with families and also posted on the PAUSD website. A couple of themes that emerged from both meetings include transportation and afterschool supports. Transportation personnel attended the October 22 meeting and announced the Transportation Department and Academic Supports Department will hold two joint meetings to discuss busing concerns and questions with families. The District will hold one meeting in Palo Alto and the other in East Palo Alto to ensure families have several opportunities to engage in the process. 


Students, staff, and families came out in force and in orange to celebrate the District’s seventh annual celebration of National Unity Day on Wednesday, October 23. Campuses were covered in words of encouragement and messages of acceptance and inclusion. There were T-shirts that read, “You can sit with me,” human and paper unity chains with messages expressing what it means to be kind, inclusive, and accepting. Libraries displayed books highlighting Unity Day themes which could also be seen in drawings, kindness walls, and friendship trees. At one middle school, students and staff came together to fold over 1,000 orange origami cranes to display around campus while other schools hosted a Unity Day Picnic during lunch where student leadership and other groups facilitated booths with activities focused around the concept of unity and community.

Gunn celebrated Unity Day with a lunchtime open mic event hosted by the Student Executive Council and the Wellness Team during which students shared their experiences with bullying and spread messages of hope and kindness. The Flextime activity for the week is called “Inside me, outside me” where students painted masks to depict the face they show to the outside world, and what their experiences are on the inside. The masks will be featured in the Wellness Center for the rest of the month to promote diversity and compassion within our student body. Paly’s Unity Day celebration lasted throughout the day with staff wearing “Choose Kindness” pins. At lunch, students and staff played lawn games and had cider and snacks to promote connecting with others through food and fun. Paly students and staff decorated banners with words of kindness, hope, and encouragement for others. They are now posted around the school. 

Some events will continue throughout the month including this Saturday, October 26, during Make A Difference Day sponsored by Youth Community Service (YCS). This annual day of service starts with a morning meeting and light breakfast at 9:00 a.m. at the DLA Piper Law Firm, 2000 University Avenue, East Palo Alto. All ages are welcome to work side-by-side to make a difference in the community at various local sites until 1:30 p.m. For activity updates and to sign up, visit the YCS website.

Many thanks to staff, families, and students for making Unity Day and National Bullying Prevention Month a unifying community-wide event. Special thanks to the City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), school Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education in Palo Alto (CAC) for helping make this day and message impactful.  


PAUSD will be conducting its biennial administration of the CHKS sponsored by the California Department of Education (CDE). As part of the District’s commitment to the PAUSD Promise to support student Wellness and Safety, the CHKS will be administered at each school site for students in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11 from November 6-20. 

PAUSD has participated in CHKS since 2003 to gather important data on student safety, engagement, and connection in their school community and student physical and psychological well-being. The survey includes questions about alcohol, tobacco, and other drug issues, as well as questions about school safety and the learning environment. The results are used to understand school climate and culture, and for accountability under the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the California School Dashboard through the Local Indicators and by school sites to inform the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) Plans for schools as well as the High School Western Association of Schools and College (WASC) Plans.

The survey modules are available for review on the CHKS PAUSD website.


While the 11th graders took the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) on Wednesday, October 23, Gunn High School’s SELF Program provided four hours of college, career, and life readiness programs for the 9th and 10th grade SELF cohorts. The freshman groups participated in activities designed to further develop their cohort communities and increase connections with their peers. Student discussions captured what the community looks like and means to them. The freshmen cohorts worked together to break out of customized individual Escape Rooms. They also participated in activities and games with other cohorts on the field. The 10th grade SELF cohorts engaged in a full day of activities built around careers and life pathways. Over 20 guest speakers from the community, including former Gunn alumni, shared the paths they took after high school to the careers they have now. After attending talks with the guest speakers, the 10th graders completed different strength surveys and career exploration activities through the District’s college and career planning platform Naviance. 


Health Services partnered with Human Resources to provide TB Risk Assessments to over 200 employees on Wednesday, October 23, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the District Office. Certificated and classified employees are required to provide proof that they were examined and found free from active TB at initial hire and every four years after. For information on when you are due for a TB assessment and future TB clinic dates, please contact Human Resources.


YCS in partnership with the PTA and PAUSD is hosting an interactive workshop focused on creating connections in schools, programs, and families through developmental relationships. There will be a presenter from Search Institute there to discuss their Developmental Relationships Framework and demonstrate the connections between strong relationships and thriving youth. Workshop participants will learn about Developmental Relationships, including ways families and others can express care, challenge growth, provide support, expand possibilities and share power with youth. The Workshop will be held November 2 from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Greene Middle School in the Multi-Purpose Room. Parenting adults, staff, community professionals or members seeking to support families interested in participating should RSVP on the YCS website

Technology Department


Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an easy way to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device, such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—such as the Yubikeys that have been issued to all staff and made available to all parents during this past year. The Yubikeys are not unique or bound to PAUSD services, they can be used anywhere that supports FIDO authentication.