Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 2, 2014

School board reviews Common Core progress

Graduation dates also announced

by Jerri Pantages Long

The Pleasanton school board reviewed new Common Core State Standards last week and also technology for instruction that will be closely intertwined in local classrooms.

Funding facility and technology needs also was a focus at the meeting April 22.

This is the second of a three-year "revolution" in how students are taught and assessed, not only in Pleasanton and California, but throughout the nation as CCSS are implemented.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the emphasis was on "building infrastructure, skill development for teacher leaders, and awareness for all teachers."

The board of trustees was informed of the process and content, and parent forums were offered. An audit of each school site was conducted by the technology department to determine readiness for the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment that is taken on computers at all schools.

During the current school year, the focus became "instructional strategies, curriculum mapping, formative Common Core State Standards tasks and benchmarks."

The school board budgeted for instructional coaches in the areas of English language development, mathematics, technology and advancement via individual determination. The coaches are teachers freed from classroom assignments to assist their colleagues throughout the district in a non-evaluative way.

Those coaches, plus additional staff development days, were the key elements to bringing staff members on board the new train of thought in how to educate students for the 21st century.

Using technology for problem-solving and collaboration is the new direction to engage students in greater depth of knowledge. This month, students at several grade levels "tested the test," trying out for the first time the new computerized assessment.

"Change is hard," said Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi. "It's a lot of work, and it takes time. What has worked well is the instructional coach model. We have exemplary coaches, and also parent liaisons."

Ahmadi said other districts have inquired about how Pleasanton has gotten beyond "gadgets" to successfully integrating technology into all aspects of student learning.

One program that was launched in January is Sound Partners, a phonics-based literacy intervention program involving K-2 students working 3-4 times a week with trained volunteers in sessions of 20-45 minutes, depending upon grade level.

Heidi Burton, K-5 literacy instructional coach, reported that currently more than 125 students are being served by over 170 volunteers, though more are welcome. Scripted lessons lead directly to application in reading. English learners and special needs students are benefiting from this program, as well as those in general education, she said.

In the upcoming school year, the CCSS focus will be "full implementation of formative assessments and/or benchmarks" to prepare for the first Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments that "count," in spring 2015.

Those will be the first of the new assessments that will provide scores for individuals, schools and the school district. Staff development will continue in depth of knowledge, instructional strategies and data analysis.

In order to switch effectively from paper-and-pencil testing to computer testing, the technological infrastructure must be in place.

Chris Hobbs, director of technology, presented the school board an updated version of the district's technology plan through 2017. The plan is based on the board's strategic plan, which says the schools will "optimize student learning by utilizing innovative technologies."

The plan incorporates standards for students outlined by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE): creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, digital citizenship, and critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

Lisa Highfill, instructional coach for technology, said technology can "transform learning from being teacher-centered, to being student-centered," adding that students can connect not only with classmates, but with peers from around the globe.

Board members expressed particular interest and concern over the goal stating that "all students will have access to appropriate technology devices, Internet access and instruction regardless of their socioeconomic status."

Trustees and staff members are aware of the so-called "digital divide" that separates those who have computer access at home from those who do not. Some loaner laptop computers are available to students, and the district has been working to get Internet access to students' homes that lack it.

The updated technology plan calls for one computer lab per each of the nine elementary schools and the two alternative secondary schools; two computer labs at each of the three middle schools; and five computer labs at each of the two comprehensive high schools. These physical labs are to be augmented with mobile device labs, using notebook, laptop, or tablet devices.

Teachers and administrators are to each get a laptop computer. The district has established a five-year "refresh cycle," with the budget showing replacement of 60% of the devices in schools.

Additionally, the Facilities Master Plan has been divided into four categories, beginning with $14 million needed for "maintenance, safety, and shell integrity," what deputy superintendent Luz Cazares termed the "squeaky-leaky" items that should not be delayed.

The second phase includes technology upgrades and four new Career Technical Education projects for the high schools, among other things, for a $99 million total.

The third phase would include building a new elementary school and other projects ($204 million), and the fourth phase would include new classrooms, buildings for electives at the secondary level, and playing field improvements ($188 million).

Also on the board agenda April 22, trustees:

* Honored four students who demonstrated the Community of Character trait of "Respect:" Eljay Schellenberger (Walnut Grove, kindergarten), Joshua Freeman (Vintage Hills, fifth grade), Nishaad Trivedi (Harvest Park, eighth grade) and Azelia Cordova (Village, 11th grade).

* Recognized four students from Pleasanton Middle School who were recipients of the 10th annual Alameda County African-American Student Achievement and Excellence Award: Madison Perez, Jovan Perez, Gary Pride and Mikyale Combs.

* Proclaimed May 5-9 as Teacher Appreciation Week and May 6 as Day of the Teacher.

* Heard concerns from three elementary PE teachers and two music teachers about their class sizes compared to teachers of other subjects.

* Agreed to issue layoff notices to eight classified employees whose hours this year were paid for by parent donations (campus monitor, library assistants, site technology specialists and special needs assistants).

* Announced graduation dates as follows: Horizon and Village high schools on June 11 at Amador Valley High School Theater, at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively; Amador Valley and Foothill high schools on June 13 on their own campuses, at 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively.

Comments

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

What you neglected to report on is the fact that more and more states are finding that the Common Core standards are broken and do not work. The creator of this system did not even finish his studies on it, but our government signed off on it anyways. Every citizen in our wonderful city should be calling for this system to be eradicated from our school systems.


Posted by rotten core, a resident of Amador Estates
on May 6, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Nationalizing our educational system. Isn't this what totalitarian regimes do?

Watch what happens to a parent who dares to disagree with X-rated material that his child is required to read.

Web Link

Reject this Common Core system with a passion if you care about the education of our children.


Posted by sick, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on May 7, 2014 at 12:38 am

I find it disgusting that school administrators are assigning English Language Arts materials with detailed descriptions of sex acts. This is the reading material students were required to read: Web Link


Posted by Local Crusader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 7, 2014 at 5:01 am

Yes, our high school students should not be exposed to literature that has any sexual content. Moreover, we must remove Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and Inherit the Wind from our school libraries, as these pieces of totalitarian fiction deny Christianity while promoting a sick version of Godless Marxism within our communities. Local control of our children's reading material is our best defense against Darwinism, contemporary science (global warming), and smut (Jodi Picoult) in the classroom.


Posted by liberalism is a disease, a resident of Birdland
on May 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

If you like Common Core, you're really going to love the writing assignment given to students in the San Bernardino school district.
Web Link

Students were asked to : "debate, in essay form, whether the Holocaust was 'merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain wealth."
The 'justification' for this assignment, by Rialto Unified's interim school superintendent, Mohammad Z. Islam: "When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence," the assignment reads. "For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain."

This is what is being taught in your schools.


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