December 11, 2015

As students prepare for semester exams at the high schools and conclusion of the first semester across the district, PreK-12, district leaders, school leaders, and teachers continue to finalize plans for the second semester and the many endeavors and goals we continue to pursue, as outlined in the District Goals and the School WASC and SPSA plans.  As you read the updates from the various divisions in the Educational Services Department, it is clear a great deal of planning and implementation is happening.

Guidance Update

The process for securing a facilitator and pre-planning for a District Guidance Committee recently began with the intention of seeking School Board approval to move forward with assembling a committee.  This would include various constituents who would explore contemporary and effective Guidance models for supporting the student during the four year planning process. This also includes setting annual and post-secondary goals for learning and personal growth.  Ken Yale, who facilitated Gunn’s Schedule Committee, has tentatively agreed to facilitate this effort with the goal of implementing a new model based on committee findings, and Board and community support for the 2017-18 school year.

In January, at the start of the registration process for 2016-17, Gunn’s Guidance and Administrative teams are planning a few additional events and strategies to make course selection a smooth and accessible process.  Here are two changes to be implemented to deepen and widen the partnership between the school, Guidance, students, and families:

  • Student course selection guidance and support:  Current freshman will be receiving course selection guidance and support in their Titan 101 sessions throughout the beginning of January.  A follow up presentation will be given to the freshman class in two groups during a later flextime.  Counselors are meeting with their current sophomores in 1:1 sessions to review course selection and four year planning.  Finally, the Titan Juniors will be receiving course selection guidance in groups during their English courses in late January.
  • Incoming Freshman Conferences:  The Guidance Counselors will be hosting opportunities for incoming freshmen and their families to have a conference with the Guidance Counselors to discuss questions about registration, courses, pathways, and the transition to high school.  Students and families will be asked to sign up for an appointment if they would like to have this time with a counselor.  Appointments will be offered in the evenings so all families have the opportunity to attend.

Student Course Surveys:

For the first time the students at the high schools received a uniform survey to provide feedback on courses for which they are enrolled.  The short survey gives opportunity for students to provide honest and critical feedback on their first semester experiences focusing on their learning, teaching strategies, assignment and homework load and meaning, and teacher-student connections, communication, and supports.  Teachers have access to the feedback and will be having discussions with their evaluating administrator.  This was a big effort for both schools and the rollout and implementation has been smooth and successful so far, thanks to the planning and communication of Chris Kolar, Director of Research and Assessment, and his team at the District office.  The survey opened Monday, and as of Thursday, December 10, there were over 6,800 submitted responses.  Only a few students have reported experiencing some small difficulties, which have been easily fixable for the spring semester surveys.  This is a result of a partnering agreement between the District and the teachers association to learn and lead by studying data and the feedback provided by students.  Only teachers and administrators will have full access to the raw data for the students in their classes.  A snapshot of aggregated results will be reported and made available for the community during the second semester.

Course Access and Laning Discussions

As the District continues to implement the Minority Achievement and Talent Development (MATD) Committee recommendations, both high schools will implement changes in course prerequisites. This will allow students to make course choices for the next school year based on their passions, interests, goals, and efforts, with successfully completing the course prior, this being the major prerequisite for enrollment in a class, across any particular lanes that exist for any given subject.  The teachers and counselors will always be available to discuss and answer student questions and offer helpful perspectives and recommendations to students if so desired, but the students will have the final decision in choosing courses they are ready and wanting to take.  The intention of this shift is to communicate consistently the message that all students will achieve UC/CSU eligibility and all students should challenge themselves each year in a new and rigorous way through the courses they select, and make informed decisions based on their prior efforts and information they have access to in their prior classes. 

Alongside the discussions of access and, in some courses, the shift to one lane for all students in that grade level, are discussions and training for how to best support students at their particular level of learning, while all students of varying needs are in the same class.  Offering a class with only one lane serves as an opportunity for all students in a grade level to share the same experience in at least one course.  This is an opportunity to build community as well as build a common language of expectations and learning for all students.  These ideas will be brought before the Board of Education in January for discussion.  Gunn will propose having one lane for Algebra 1 and Paly is proposing the same kind of lane decision for English 9.  There are many benefits to this shift in course offering, which will be further explained at the Board meeting in January.  The teachers in those departments are dedicated to this shift and fully supportive of the message it sends that support that must be provided to all students.

Elementary Math Parent Education Night

Wednesday night, December 9, proved to be an interesting and enthusiastic session for over 70 parents who attended the first elementary parent education night.  Parents actively participated in Number Talks, Dot Talks, Problem of the Month activities, MARS tasks, and a technology integration session. 

Elementary Math Exploration Year 

K-5 teachers throughout the district have begun a year of math curricula exploration.  Teachers will have a full year to explore a variety of different curricula before they narrow the selections to our top 3 choices for formal pilot during the 2016-17 school year.  The chart below represents the list of the different materials our schools are exploring.  With the guidance of the elementary Math Lead Committee, we intend to select three possibilities for piloting by the end of this school year.  Parents will have an opportunity in February to provide crucial feedback acknowledging their interest in math curricula.

Secondary Education - Katherine Baker

Instructional Supervisors (ISs)

Secondary ISs meet monthly as a whole group, along with site administrators, and also meet monthly in their across-schools content steering committees.

ISs were given a release day in November to attend a training with Austin Buffum of Solution Tree.  The purpose of this training was to reinforce the vocabulary and Professional Learning Community (PLC) work with Austin Buffum undertaken last year by site administrators.  The training in November clarified the connection between PLC work, Response to Intervention (RTI), and differentiation in the classroom.  The four essential questions that frame the cycle of inquiry/learning undertaken by PLCs are:

1) What do you want your students to know and be able to do as a result of this lesson/activity/unit? (learning objectives/learning targets)

2) How do you know if they learned it? (assessment)

3) What do you do if they have not learned it? (re-teach, intervention)

4) What do you do if they have learned it? (go deeper, move forward, enrichment)

At their December 2 meeting, the ISs spent time planning for the February 11 Staff Development Day.  On that date teachers will meet in their content area departments across all schools for professional learning.  Much of the planning includes a variety of teacher led workshops on a variety of contemporary teacher techniques, book studies, and curricular planning and alignment for new and current courses.  Plans and outcomes for the day are focused on providing answers to our curricular frame questions (above), which provide the foundation of our Professional Learning Communities and curricular redesigns for next semester and next school year.

Middle School Math Update

In 2014 the Board approved content shifts in middle and high school math courses to align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Since that time, middle school teachers have been pulling curriculum and resources from many sources to align their curriculum with CCSS.

In August and September 2015, our Math TOSA and a team of middle school teachers visited the County Office of Education, where they studied K-6 and K-8 state adopted math textbooks and materials.  The team chose the following textbooks and materials for exploration this school year at each middle school: CA Math Expressions (K-6) and GoMath (K-8) / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Math in Focus / Singapore (6th grade versions for K-6 and

6-8); EnVisionMath (Pearson) for 7th advanced text to Algebra 1 in 8th grade; Carnegie Learning integrated program; Creative Core Curriculum, STEM Art & Lit (TPS Publishing) 6th grade sample.  In addition, the following online support resources are currently being explored across all three middle schools: IXL Learning, Brainingcamp, Buzzmath.  Teachers will share their opinions on the materials at the Joint Middle School meeting in January 2016 and at the Staff Development Day in February 2016.  A committee of teachers, Instructional Supervisors, administrators, and parents will be formed in March of this school year to study the two or three teacher-recommended textbooks for piloting in the 2016-17 school year.  Following the pilot, by May 2017 the textbook adoption committee will recommend a textbook and materials for adoption in the 2017-18 school year.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Last month I joined our Science TOSA and representatives from Gunn High School at the County Office of Education NGSS Roll-Out training.  Student NGSS assessments are scheduled to take place in the 2018-19 school year, and the Science Steering Committee will be studying the content/curricular shifts to be implemented prior to the assessment year.  These content shifts will be going to the Board for approval later this school year.

Teacher Training

We have sent teams of teachers from all five secondary sites to national conferences in the past few months for training on the transition to CCSS and NGSS in each of the core content areas.  These teachers have returned with many instructional strategies, best practices, and sample lessons to put into practice.  They will be sharing with their colleagues what they learned at steering committee meetings and at the February Professional Development day. 

English Vertical Alignment

As part of middle and high school vertical alignment efforts, a team of Terman English teachers observed Gunn 9th grade English teachers earlier this month.  The teachers met after the observation periods for discussion and Q&A.  A team from JLS will be scheduling similar visits later this year. 

Assistant Principals

Secondary assistant principals meet monthly.  This month’s meeting featured training on teacher observation and giving authentic feedback for evaluations.  This is the same training the PreK-12 Principals received this month. 

Learning Forward

I attended the Learning Forward Annual Conference December 4-8, along with our three secondary Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs).  Every year PAUSD teachers and administrators attend this high quality conference.  This year I attended three all-day workshops that addressed adult learning and building leadership capacity:  Leading Professional Learning (Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice), with Steven Katz of the University of Toronto; Teacher Evaluation that Makes a Difference, with Michael Toth of the Marzano Center; and Growth Oriented Leadership: Developmental Strategies for Schools and Systems, with Ellie Drago-Severson of Teachers College, Columbia University.  These presentations addressed adult learning strategies, and giving feedback and evaluations that have the goal of learning and growth.  Some of the highlights included ways to sustain professional learning in professional practice, using the four pillars of practice that lead adult learning (teaming, leadership roles, collegial inquiry, mentoring), and using the four different “Ways of Knowing” or making sense of the world (Instrumental Knowing, Socializing Knowing, Self-Authoring Knowing, Self-Transforming Knowing) to meet teachers and administrators where they are, and to help them grow forward along a continuum of continuous learning and improvement.

Science TOSA Tammy Juarez attended Marcia Tate’s session on how adult learners can participate in a brain‑compatible professional development experience for long-term growth and change.  The best part of this research-based learning experience was that 17 out 20 components of effective professional development were modeled and experienced during the full day seminar.  She also attended a session on the importance of differentiating professional learning for teachers.  Additional seminars focused on the use of the Atlas program for videotaped lessons and accompanying documentation to examine the advanced teaching techniques used by highly qualified National Board Certified teachers.

English/Social Studies TOSA Karen Logue attended two sessions targeted towards text complexity, including Carol Jago’s With Rigor for All: Promoting Literacy through Vigorous Reading and Writing and Karen Flories’ Text Complexity’s Role:  Assessment & Instructional Decisions.  The former focused on the importance of developing independent and proficient readers and writers who are able to tackle complex texts (in multiple modalities). The latter was centered around the ideas of text complexity’s critical role in assessment design, the importance of selecting appropriate texts for assessments, and the ability to make accurate inferences from assessment data.  Karen also attended a session from the Literacy Design Collaborative, a teacher-created instructional design system; Thought Leader lectures on Integrating Professional Learning into the Daily Lives of Teachers with Marc Tucker and Ben Jensen, and Principal Supervisor Standards with Mary Canole, Ben Fenton, Janice Harris, and Amanda Alexander.

Math TOSA Suzanne Antink attended the Math Design Collaborative, Mathematics at Work; Creating a PreK-12 College- and Career-Ready Culture for All Students; and Marcia Tate’s Assessment: How Do We Know They Are Learning?  The Mathematics Design Collaborative included training on a vast (and free, within copyright restrictions) database of well-commented and documented constructed math problems.  Many of our middle school teachers are already using these problem sets.  The problems are similar to what our students will encounter on the Smarter Balanced Test.  The Mathematics at Work workshop included practical methods and templates for creating problems of varying challenge levels (Bloom’s Taxonomy), designing exams, and setting learning targets with students.  Within the workshop, teachers and administrators solved problems, analyzed exams and wrote goals.  The Marcia Tate Assessment workshop gave tools for designing instruction that pushes students to engage in more complex tasks utilizing both brain theory and educational psychology.  The instruction exhibited in the workshop mirrored the instruction that can and should be used to engage students in the classroom.  All three workshops were eminently practical as they included both practice and all of the materials used throughout each workshop.

Academic Supports - Judy Jaramillo Argumedo

The Department of Academic Supports has had another productive month.  The Academic Supports Team has been working with auditors on Federal programs and was in compliance in process and supporting documentation for every program.

I was able to attend the California School Boards Association conference to present the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Committee (MATD) report.  I was very proud to represent the MATD committee and the final report.  Over 100 people attended the session and had great questions about our process and implementation.  I have also just finished first round interviews for the Equity Coordinator position and will conduct a second round next week.  I am hoping to have the position filled by January to present to the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Committee.  We have fully staffed our Parent Liaisons, who will be working with the Equity Coordinator when he/she is hired.  Currently the Parent Liaisons are staffed to support each school in the district for one full day per week.

I have been visiting elementary sites to observe the English Language Learners program.  I plan on visiting all sites at least once a month as PAUSD begins to implement the new English Language Development standards. On December 9 I will be attending a co-teaching conference with all the English Learner Specialists to help with the process of implementation.  I am also observing how the new Parent Liaisons are adjusting to assignments.  Currently, all elementary sites receive one day of support, and Gunn’s College Pathway program is supported by the Parent Liaison for two days.  Gunn High School parents have also started the Gunn Hispanic Parent Network, which is supported by the Parent Liaison, Stephanie Mendoza.