Friday, February 27, 2015

Get ready for the Smarter Balanced Assessment

Our 3rd- through 8th-grade and 11th-grade students will be taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessment between March 10 and May 29 (check with your school for exact dates), so you may be hearing about it from your child soon.

There's a lot that's new about the state assessments—everything from what's in the tests to how your child will be taking them—and we'll provide you with resources on that after the jump cut. But in the end, some things about testing will never change, like making sure your child gets a good night's sleep before the day of the test.

Here are a few things you can do:
  1. As mentioned, a full night of sleep is priceless.
  2. Provide a healthy breakfast that isn't too heavy or too loaded with sugar—being groggy or hyperactive won't help.
  3. Talk to them about the test. Are they nervous? What do they expect from the test?
  4. Get to school on time!
  5. Afterward, check in to see what they thought was easy and what was difficult. Emphasize that it's not about scores, but rather about understanding the material.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How can families participate in school planning, and what should they expect?

In the San Francisco Unified School District, March is school planning season as schools across the district develop their program and budget priorities for the next school year. Because schools want to hear from all the different groups who will be affected by the new school site plan, families, staff, and students in middle and high schools are expected and encouraged to participate in this process.

Each school is expected to have at least two school community meeting—often in addition to regular School Site Council and English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) meetings—to identify priorities and develop the site plan for next year.

Here's what you will be doing during the school planning process:
  1. Review data about your school and students, and reflect on how your school is doing to support students to succeed. Examples of information you can review include:
    • Academic assessments, such as CLA, Fountas & Pinnell, CELDT, writing assessments, and FEP reclassification data
    • Attendance, out-of-class referrals, and suspension data
    • Student and family surveys
  2. Based on that data, set goals and identify priorities for the next school year. What are the programs, services, and other resources your school wants to focus on to reach these goals?
  3. Starting the first week of March, look at how the draft of the school budget can best support these goals and priorities.

How you can participate:

  • Participate in School Site Council, ELAC and school planning meetings
  • Participate in your school’s student and parent surveys and make sure your voice is heard
  • Participate in the March 7 School Planning Retreat

The School Planning Retreat – March 7, 2015

The annual School Planning Retreat provides another opportunity to work together as a team on your school's Balanced Score Card, academic plan and budget for 2015-16. This year’s retreat is on Saturday, March 7. Talk to your school’s principal about how you can attend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A One-Time English-Language Learner Puts Premium on Bilingual, Bicultural Education

Madeline Will | February 24, 2015 |

Richard A. Carranza first stepped into a Tucson, Ariz., kindergarten classroom not speaking any English. By 2nd grade, the now-superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District was fully bilingual.

Mr. Carranza’s experience—growing up in a Spanish-speaking home with parents who were also bilingual—has shaped his passion for language. It’s also the driving force behind his commitment to ensuring that English-language learners in San Francisco’s public schools not only become fluent in their new language, but also have the opportunity to become fully fluent and literate in their native one.

That passion has stuck with him throughout his career in K-12 education: first as a bilingual social studies teacher and principal and then in various administrative roles, including a stint as a regional superintendent in Clark County, Nev., before becoming superintendent of the 53,000-student San Francisco district in June 2012.

Language, he believes and says repeatedly, is an asset, not a liability.

“I think it’s so important that language becomes depoliticized and becomes what it is—a vehicle for communication,” Mr. Carranza, 48, said.

“We take the approach that everybody deserves an excellent education,” he said. “It’s not the student who’s at fault [regarding] whether they’re learning or not. It’s really the system being able to meet the needs of the students.”

Lessons from the Leader

  • Value Language, Culture: By valuing the language and culture of English-learners, you can build on their assets. Students should be given the opportunity to graduate bilingual and bicultural.
  • Power of Data: When schools have access to disaggregated data by classroom, leaders and teachers are able to use the data to inform and adjust their instruction and identify any gaps in curricular resources for English-learners.
  • Family Support: Providing English-learner families with translated information, community resources, and culturally competent support services is essential to supporting students.
San Francisco Unified’s English-language-learner services are governed by the Lau Action Plan, which outlines steps the district must take to ensure students with limited English proficiency receive sufficient language instruction in English and full access to the mainstream curriculum. That plan stems from the 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the landmark civil rights case, Lau v. Nichols, that ordered San Francisco’s schools to provide Chinese children who didn’t speak or understand English with a bridge to the curriculum. That case greatly expanded the rights of all children with limited English skills to receive special language instruction to learn English.


Monday, February 9, 2015

SFUSD teachers help design next-generation science curriculum

Laura Dudnick | February 9, 2015 | SF Examiner

Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner
Daria Soofi, left, teaches an outdoors class on composting as part of
Marshall Elementary School’s outside education program.
Galileo High School physics teacher David Barrios gave a demonstration while holding up a syringe with a balloon inside at a recent session for a select group of San Francisco Unified School District educators.

"Pulling [the plunger] is going to make the balloon change size," Barrios speculated, writing down his prediction on a sheet of paper, where he was also instructed to note observations. The teacher then plugged the end of the syringe with his thumb to prevent air from escaping, and slowly withdrew the nozzle.

Barrios' forecast proved true: The tiny balloon appeared to inflate inside the syringe.
That's because there are a set number of molecules inside the syringe, and when the volume increases, the molecules spread out, explained Tammy Cook-Endres, a teacher-in-residence with the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute who had assigned the experiment to SFUSD teachers at the teacher-training session last month.

"So you have fewer molecules in a given amount of space that are pushing on the balloon," thus allowing the balloon to expand, Cook-Endres said.

The fun-with-syringes lesson – which included experimenting with mini-marshmallows and M&Ms in the plastic nozzle as well — kicked off one of five teacher development days this school year in which 40 science teachers are helping to develop the SFUSD's next-generation science curriculum that is set to take effect within the next few years.


Monday, February 2, 2015

CA schools look to add 'social emotional learning' to curriculum

By Lyanne Melendez | February 2, 2015 | ABC Ch. 7

All students learn the basics: reading, writing, arithmetic. Add to that compassion.

Nowadays, more and more California schools are including social emotional learning in their curricula. Some districts are even including it on students' report cards.

"Draw a picture of a time when you saw compassion or when you had compassion for someone else," asked Pamela Schulting of her fifth grade class at Bret Harte elementary in San Francisco.

Once they put it in pictures, they discuss a time when they were empathetic toward another person.

"Compassion is kinda like empathy, to put yourself in another person's place, like as we say in our classroom, put yourself in another person's shoes," said student Leah Maes.

Every Monday at 2 p.m., students at Bret Harte Elementary spend an hour on social emotional learning. What they discuss here is applied in every situation at school and at home.

"If we give kids language to engage in conflict resolution, we feel like they are much better as a result in settings like recess and in the cafeteria," said Principal Jeremy Hilnski.