In California, some districts face minimal opposition to Common Core | EdSource

By Katherine Ellison

In contrast to other parts of the country where the Common Core standards have run into fierce opposition, several large California school districts and communities served by a leading charter-school organization have experienced considerable support and little overt opposition to the new standards in math and English language arts.

That’s according to interviews conducted by EdSource Today as part of its coverage of the Common Core standards in six school districts – Santa Ana and Garden Grove in Orange County, Fresno and Visalia in the Central Valley, and San Jose and Elk Grove in Northern California – and the Aspire Public Schools charter management organization.

The superintendents of the six districts uniformly reported that opposition has been relatively minor. “We’ve had somebody speak at our board meeting (against the Common Core) maybe once, maybe twice,” said Michael Hanson, superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District.

via In California, some districts face minimal opposition to Common Core | EdSource#.VRrNFmctHGg#.VRrNFmctHGg.

Vallejo’s Patrice Lewis continues to build and study community – Times Herald

By John Glidden

Many in Vallejo may not know it, but Patrice L. Lewis is a ninja.

A community ninja.

The 2006 Jesse Bethel High School graduate helps behind the scenes, avoiding the spotlight while trying to strengthen the city she calls home, looking to “spread community and love.”Lewis, 26, who self identifies as a ”budding” historian, can rightfully call herself an “established” bridge-builder in the community. She is a key member of the Vallejo Together service organization, member of the local chapter of the NAACP and an avid supporter/participant of each year’s Youth Expo & Parent Summit put together by the Vallejo school district, Vallejo Together and the Solano County Collaborative HIV/AIDS Awareness.

via Vallejo’s Patrice Lewis continues to build and study community.

Letter: School is an ‘overlooked jewel’ – The Reporter

School is an ‘overlooked jewel’

I would like to call the community’s attention to one of our overlooked “jewels” in Solano County. In fact, you will find this outstanding institution right here in Vacaville.

This overlooked ‘jewel” is none other than Eugene Padan Elementary School. On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, the community was invited to see our students shine in our second annual “Leadership Day.” Many of you in the community are not aware that Eugene Padan School is transforming into a Leadership Academy where all staff and students study and practice Stephen Covey’s “Leader in Me” program: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” We were quite fortunate on Wednesday to have as our guests, the Mayor of Vacaville, Superintendent of Solano County, Superintendent of Vacaville Unified, County Supervisor, and other important dignitaries in our community. They were treated to songs and speeches by students how the study of the “Seven Habits” has changed their young lives.

via Letter: School is an ‘overlooked jewel’.

Markham third-grade class honors Hispanic labor leader’s life, legacy – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Imagine working all day in the hot sun, with little food, water and no rest breaks, for 35 cents.

That is what some Hispanic field workers earned in 1965 in America’s West and Southwest, Markham Elementary teacher Norma Guerrero recently explained to her class of 24 students.

But Cesar Chavez, best known as the co-founder of the United Farmworkers of America in the mid-20th century, told the beleaguered workers across the nation that “we can change these working conditions,” said Guerrero, a bilingual teacher for 16 years at the Markham Avenue campus.

via Markham third-grade class honors Hispanic labor leader’s life, legacy.

New tests to tell juniors if they’re college-ready | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

This is a transition year for the California State University’s Early Assessment Program, a decade-old early warning system that tells 11th-graders whether they are prepared for college-level work – and steps they should take if they’re not. Caught in the switch to a new test and new academic standards, more juniors may be told that they’re not yet ready.

Until this year, the Early Assessment Program’s test consisted of a combination of questions on the old 11th-grade California Standards Tests, plus a writing sample and 30 additional math and English language arts problems that CSU developed.

With the transition to the Common Core, California education officials pushed to replace the EAP test with the new Smarter Balanced tests to provide a common set of college readiness measurements that all member states of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium could use. The other states agreed with this approach.

via New tests to tell juniors if they’re college-ready | EdSource#.VRl-tmctHGg#.VRl-tmctHGg.

Common Core standards are “natural next step” | EdSource

By Michael Collier

EdSource is conducting a series of interviews featuring educators’ experiences with the Common Core State Standards. Elk Grove Unified is one of six districts that EdSource is following during implementation of the new standards. For more information about the Common Core, check out our guide.

Chris Hoffman, superintendent of the Elk Grove Unified School District, is the first superintendent of the district to have received his K-12 education there. He talked with EdSource recently about preparing teachers and students for the Common Core standards in his district. Here are excerpts from the interview:

We’ve seen a lot of reforms come and go over the years. How are you dealing with the Common Core? Do you see this as a major reform?

I think it’s a natural next step. We’re not having conversations anymore about whether we should have standards. It took us three to four years just to get people to believe we should have standards versus not having standards. This is more about the quality of the standards and what it is that we are asking kids to know and be able to do.

via Common Core standards are “natural next step” | EdSource#.VRl-OWctHGg#.VRl-OWctHGg.

Vallejo High grad hopes poetry book inspires others – Times Herald

By Richard Freedman

DeMareon Gipson doesn’t gloss over his difficult Vallejo childhood.

“Pretty tumultuous,” is how the 22-year-old described his youth. “It definitely was not the most adequate or healthy thing.”

But the 2010 Vallejo High School graduate wouldn’t let a tough life get the best of him. Not when he had dreams, goals, and the courage to rise above whatever anger or bitterness he had.

“I learned a lot from it,” he said of his teen years. “Part of that motivates me. I just didn’t want to live my life of ‘what if’ when I have the potential to do something regardless of the obstacles put in front of me.”


A second-year student at San Francisco State University, Gipson was eloquent and dapper for this interview, proud of his first book of poetry, “Looking Forward,” which took most of 2014 to write.

via Vallejo High grad hopes poetry book inspires others.

Stretching One Great Teacher Across Many Classrooms : NPR

By Blake Farmer

A stack of research suggests that all the classroom technology in the world cant compare to the power of a great teacher. And, since we havent yet figured out how to clone our best teachers, a few schools around the country are trying something like it: Stretching them across multiple classrooms.

“Well probably never fill up every single classroom with one of those teachers,” says Bryan Hassel, founder of Charlotte-based education consulting firm Public Impact. But, he says, its important to ask: “How can we change the way schools work so that the great teachers we do have can reach more of the students, maybe even all of them?”

Public Impact is working with schools in Tennessee, North Carolina and New York to build what it calls an “opportunity culture” for teachers. Its part of a broader turnaround strategy at schools like Bailey Middle Prep in Nashville.

via Stretching One Great Teacher Across Many Classrooms : NPR Ed : NPR.

Schools wait for millions in reimbursement for Medi-Cal outreach | EdSource

By Jane Meredith

It was, without question, a call to action. Millions in federal Medi-Cal funds would flow to California schools, the state auditor said in 2005, if districts filled out the paperwork to collect a little-known reimbursement for the cost of referring low-income students to the health care program.

Now, a decade later, California districts and school programs are caught in a fight with the federal government over $500 million in unpaid reimbursement claims.

From the start, the idea was to claim federal money that was there for the taking. “School districts need stronger encouragement to apply for federal dollars for Medi-Cal administrative activities,” said the state auditor’s report. Districts across the state had left $57 million in federal funds on the table in 2002-03, the report said, by not seeking reimbursement for Medi-Cal administrative tasks school staff were performing. A 2006 follow-up report, titled “No Dollar Left Behind” by the advocacy group Consumers Union, urged state legislators and the California Congressional delegation to help districts collect “their share of federal funds to which they are entitled.”

via Schools wait for millions in reimbursement for Medi-Cal outreach | EdSource#.VRWRUGctHGg#.VRWRUGctHGg.

Vacaville schools official: Measure A projects must fit education program – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Measure A projects in Vacaville Unified will need to be a good fit for the school district’s education program, functional in ways to better serve students, not necessarily architectural gems that win major design awards, a top district official said Thursday.

Speaking to trustees during a governing board workshop, Dan Banowetz, director of facilities for the 12,400-student district, said, “The facilities need to work around the program,” and ultimately be “assets to the program.” Architectural ornamentations, such as a ledge or overhang that may cast a pleasing shadow but require custodial maintenance, likely will not be included in any major building project, he added.

In a 60-minute presentation about Phase 1 expenditures of the $194 million bond, Banowetz noted the first series of eight projects — among them a new 2-story classroom building at Vacaville High, the Will C. Wood Stadium and Jepson Middle School modernization — are estimated to cost $70.5 million.

via Vacaville schools official: Measure A projects must fit education program.

Classes combining kindergarten, transitional kindergarten pose challenges | EdSource

By Susan Frey

As a result of a new state law, California schools instituted transitional kindergarten to give 4-year-olds who were previously eligible for kindergarten an extra year to adjust to school and experience a less academically-oriented curriculum. But many thousands of those children are in classrooms with kindergartners, leaving teachers to figure out how to accommodate the new approach for 4-year-olds while preparing the 5-year-olds for 1st grade.

In 2013-14, about 57,000 students were estimated to have been in transitional kindergarten, and 78 percent of the classes were combination classes with both kindergartners and transitional kindergartners, according to the most recent data provided by the California Department of Education. An estimated 1,298 classes were stand-alone transitional kindergarten, while 4,674 were mixed classes.

via Classes combining kindergarten, transitional kindergarten pose challenges | EdSource#.VRRUN2ctHGg#.VRRUN2ctHGg.

Measure A projects on Vacaville school board workshop agenda tonight – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Measure A projects, which will upgrade Vacaville Unified’s aging schools, are on the agenda when district trustees meet tonight in a special governing board workshop.

The agenda did not specify which projects would be discussed, but a general list of projects is already known, which trustees detailed in public before the run-up to the Nov. 4 election.

Money generated by the $194 million bond, which essentially replaces the Measure V bond passed in 2001, cannot be used for salaries or be taken by the state, just two of many selling points that encouraged some 61 percent of Vacaville voters to approve the bond.

via Measure A projects on Vacaville school board workshop agenda tonight.

District looks to discontinue nursery service for parenting teens – Daily Republic

By Susan Winlow

Staff is looking for approval Thursday during the Fairfield-Suisun School District board meeting to relocate the Independent Study Program to the Sullivan Interagency Youth Services Center, move the Child Development Career Technical Education Pathway program to Fairfield High School and save some money by discontinuing the nursery/child care services associated with the child development program.

The Independent Study Program is currently located on the former Dover Middle School campus, along with Sem Yeto High School, and serves 53 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

via District looks to discontinue nursery service for parenting teens Daily Republic.

Padan Elementary demonstrates new school culture – Daily Republic

By Susan Hiland

Padan Elementary School is working on a new type of school culture and the children were excited to share the new way of thinking with the community at a demonstration Wednesday.

Children from various grades gave tours to the mayor and other visitors to show how the school integrated this new culture system into its everyday programs.

“The students lead events, they give the awards and basically run the school,” said Sissy Keck, facilitator for the Leader in Me program.

The Leader in Me program is based on the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. The Vacaville kindergarten through sixth-grade school is the only one in the area trying this program.

via Padan Elementary demonstrates new school culture Daily Republic.

What Does a School Need to Enable Learning Based on Student Competency? | MindShift

By Katrina Schwartz

Many teachers have long been frustrated with static, canned curriculum that doesn’t seem connected to kids’ lives, and testing requirements that drive the learning experience. So they, often in partnership with daring leaders, are pushing back, trying to find ways to meet the long-held goal of educators: Meeting each student’s needs and helping all to be successful. Three main ways schools are attempting this work are through technology use, an emphasis on personalizing learning and moving toward a mastery-based or competency-based evaluation system. While not all the same, these approaches share some commonalities and require significant structural changes to the education system if they are to be implemented well.

A CompetencyWorks report, “Maximizing Competency Education and Blended Learning: Insights from Experts,” looks at ways that the movement for personalization dovetails with blended learning and competency-based learning to achieve a more student-centered approach to school. The report also identifies some key system changes that would support the grass-roots work that has already begun.

via What Does a School Need to Enable Learning Based on Student Competency? | MindShift.

Smarter Balanced interim assessments delayed for most students | EdSource

By Laurie Udesky

As millions of California students prepare to take the new Smarter Balanced assessments this spring, most will not have had the benefit of taking a series of “interim assessments” that were supposed to help them and their teachers prepare for the new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

The interim assessments were supposed to give students a way to rehearse for the Smarter Balanced assessments and allow teachers to see how well students had mastered the math and English Language Arts curriculum tied to the Common Core.

That’s not how it has worked out, however. The interim assessments were supposed to be in the hands of educators last fall. But the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t complete them until the end of January, too late for most teachers or districts to use them extensively, according to interviews conducted by EdSource.

via Smarter Balanced interim assessments delayed for most students | EdSource#.VRLyFGctHGg#.VRLyFGctHGg.

Solano COE to honor top educators in April – The Reporter

Teachers, paraeducators, school secretaries, computer technicians and school staff all contribute to student achievement, educational innovation and community involvement in Solano County’s schools, so the best of them will be honored at a special reception in April, county schools officials announced Tuesday.

The Solano County Office of Education will honor 14 school district employees nominated for the 2015-16 Solano County Educators of the Year (EOY). A reception, starting at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, at the Joseph A. Nelson Community Center in Suisun City, will celebrate the many accomplishments and commitment of these devoted educators and school staff to the success of our public school students.

“The Educators of the Year program is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of our teachers and school staff,” said Jay Speck, Solano County Superintendent of Schools. “These individuals have all made significant contributions to student achievement and a positive school climate.”

via Solano to honor top educators in April.

Spring Fling event aims to unify Solano College students – Daily Republic

By Susan Winlow

Lorenzo Hays-Phillips was doing a brisk business with the hot links and chicken dogs late Tuesday morning as students and staff made use of the barbecue grill set up in front of Building 1400.

The all-volunteer event was the first Spring Fling, a collaborative effort between multiple student clubs, including the college’s Black Student Union, the Campus Cat Club and the African-American Male Scholars.

“I want people to feel good in their community,” said Hays-Phillips, who spearheaded the event.

Music by the group Fernandez, set up at the clock tower, ushered students into the festivities that included vendor booths, food, jazz music on the keyboard in the morning by James Dots, college dance students and local rap artists who performed what Hays-Phillips called “positive rap.”

via Spring Fling event aims to unify Solano College students Daily Republic.

Proposition 30 closes spending gap between state and nation | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Revenue from temporary taxes from Proposition 30 has closed the K-12 spending gap between California and the national average by more than 60 percent, according to data released Monday by the California Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization.

The center is using data released last week by the National Education Association, and includes estimates for 2014-15, based on twice yearly surveys of the states. In 2014-15, California is expected to spend $11,190 per student, including federal, state and local revenue sources, according to the NEA, ranking the state 29th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. California was 42nd in spending in 2012-13, with spending of $9,013 per student.

The reason for the increase is Proposition 30, a seven-year tax increase that California voters passed in 2012. It is expected to bring in an additional $7.9 billion this year in school funding through increases in the personal income taxes of the top wage earners and a higher sales tax rate.

via Proposition 30 closes spending gap between state and nation | EdSource#.VRGMm2ctHGg#.VRGMm2ctHGg.

Dates for new Common Core assessments vary by district | EdSource

By Katherine Ellison

Between now and mid-June, approximately 3.2 million California students will take new online tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, marking a new era in California’s multi-decade efforts to establish an accountability system to assess student performance.

Precisely when students will take the tests will vary from district to district and from school to school, according to each district’s instructional calendar. Districts typically provide schools with windows of time in which the tests may be given, and then allow schools to set the exact dates for them.

Under a complicated formula set by California law, the tests cannot be given until at least 66 percent of the school’s instructional days have been completed, for elementary school students, and until 80 percent of those days have been completed in the case of high school students.

via Dates for new Common Core assessments vary by district | EdSource#.VRGMMWctHGg#.VRGMMWctHGg.