Science fun for kids at the county fair – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

County fairs are more than arts and crafts, cooking and art competitions, animal and livestock displays, horse racing and demolition derbies, midway carnivals and heart-stopping foods, main stage entertainment of aging rockers and rappers and small-stage magic acts.

Today, kids passing through fairgrounds turnstiles are versed in Digital Age technology and want a chance to exercise their knowledge and have fun while, perhaps, continuing to prepare for their future education and job prospects.

To that end, the Solano County Office of Education will host a free, hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) event Wednesday through Aug. 6 at the Solano County Fair, 900 Fairgrounds Drive, in Vallejo.

The interactive SCOE event will be at the agency’s STEAM booth in McCormack Hall, open from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 5 and 6.

Source: Science fun for kids at the county fair

Fairfield-Suisun school district leaders mull contracts in special meeting – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Several contracts covering a range of purchases and work, from laptops to lighting to emergency demolition at an elementary school, are on the agenda when Fairfield-Suisun Unified leaders meet in special session Monday in Fairfield.

The school district, the Solano County’s largest, solicited bids for audio-visual systems, and the business services department recommends awarding a $118,000 contract, one of several competing bids, to the Eidim Group, an audio-visual consulting firm in Buena Park.

In accord with standard public agency policies, winning bids typically are awarded to the lowest bidder, but Eidim’s is not, according to agenda documents. The lowest bid, at $115,000, was submitted by TIG, or Technology Integration Group, a company with offices in Sacramento and nationwide.

Information on agenda documents did not clearly state why Eidim is the recommended contract.

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Source: Fairfield-Suisun school district leaders mull contracts in special meeting

Why Schools Should Be Wary Of Free Tech Products – Forbes

By Mary Jo Madda

When I was a middle school science teacher, I oftentimes found myself digging into my own pockets to pay for equipment — Bunsen burners, test tubes, dead frogs. And that didn’t change when one-to-one iPad programs in schools became popular; in fact, it added yet another item, software, to my to-buy list. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found free online products, especially those that seemed flashy.

It didn’t even cross my mind back then that using free tools (and more importantly, asking my students to use free tools) could be problematic and even potentially dangerous — more so than the free consumer products I was finding online and using in my own time.

Source: Why Schools Should Be Wary Of Free Tech Products — And Startups Shouldn’t Make Them

Enacted Budget Includes a Number of Improvements – California Budget & Policy Center

On June 27, Governor Brown signed the 2017-18 state budget bill. This year’s budget agreement includes a number of improvements over earlier proposals, though the overall scope of state investments remains constrained by uncertainty about potential federal policy changes. The 2017-18 budget package:

  • Expands the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) to well over 1 million additional families by expanding the credit to the self-employed and increasing the income eligibility limits.
  • Reflects an agreement between the Governor and legislative leaders over how to spend Proposition 56 tobacco tax revenues for Medi-Cal, with this funding going to supplemental payments for Medi-Cal providers and also to covering ordinary spending growth in the program.

Source: First Look: Enacted Budget Includes a Number of Improvements, Reflects Ongoing Uncertainty About Federal Commitments – California Budget & Policy Center

Making the Most of Attendance Indicators – Attendance Works

The recently submitted state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) show that chronic absence is gaining traction as an indicator of school quality and student success. As this chart shows, the majority—14 out of the 17 officially submitted ESSA plans—includes some variant of chronic absence as an accountability indicator and many other states with plans in preparation seem likely to follow suit.

Attendance Works is excited by the opportunity that the increased focus on chronic absence provides because it has the potential to increase student achievement substantially. We now know that excessive student absences are a proven, widespread, and consequential problem in American schools. National data from the Office for Civil Rights shows that at least 6.8 million public school students missed 15 or more days of school in 2013-14, and it affects at least 89 percent of the nation’s school districts. Several high quality research studies show that the impact of chronic absence leads to lower achievement, disengagement and often dropout. Yet chronic absence can be reversed and, when attendance improves, student achievement is likely to improve.

Source: Making the Most of Attendance Indicators – Attendance Works Attendance Works

Summer Reading Program encourages reading for Benicia youth – Benicia Herald

By Nick Sestanovich

Studies have shown students reading comprehension decline over the summer. Researchers call this effect the summer slump. To help combat the summer slump, the Benicia Public Library started the Summer Reading Program, which continues through Aug. 31.

The Summer Reading Program encourages children from ages 0-18 to pick up a book and begin the journey literature can provide. The library gives participants of the summer program a Bingo card, which they can fill out with the books they read over the summer. According to library staff, the Summer Reading Program and Bingo card give plenty of opportunities to keep up reading skills but also encourage children to do such activities as make their own joke book, go to a Farmers Market on Thursdays or Movie in the Park, or to try out a program for children at the library. When children complete a bingo, they can come to the library and collect rewards for reading. Aug. 31 will be the last day children can come to the library and get their rewards for reading over the summer. Teens can also participate in the Summer Reading Program, as there are events just for them including a series of “Lifehacks for Teens,” and a new twist to the prizes this year.

Source: Summer Reading Program encourages reading for Benicia youth

Expanding their taxing power would be one way to provide school districts more money | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Rick Simpson didn’t write Proposition 98, the complex formula that determines how much money in the state budget goes to K-12 schools and community colleges each year. But for three decades after its inception in 1988, Simpson was an expert in its implementation as a senior adviser on education for eight Assembly Speakers.

Now recently retired, he’s pitching a tax proposal that would liberate schools from Prop. 98’s constraints. He says the only realistic way for schools to raise significantly more revenue is to give districts more authority to tax themselves. It will take a constitutional amendment, which he hopes that either the Legislature or voters, through an initiative, will place on the 2020 ballot. At this point, though, it’s just talk. No leaders or groups have stepped forward to embrace it.

Source: Expanding their taxing power would be one way to provide school districts more money | EdSource

Upbeat Gonzalez takes over as Armijo football coach – Daily Republic

By Paul Farmer

Anthony Gonzalez is in just his second year in the Armijo High football program and a few months into being the Indians head coach, replacing David Castillo.

Yet Gonzalez knows he’s taking over a team where history isn’t on its side.

For the record, the Indians haven’t made the postseason since 1937 or won a league championship since 1955. They’ve also had a school-record 10 straight losing seasons and their nine wins in the 2010s are the fewest in any decade since the 1920s when they went 12-10-4 after the school restarted playing football in 1926.

Source: Upbeat Gonzalez takes over as Armijo football coach

Bringing Authors Into Your Classroom | Edutopia

By Rita Platt

If you want to be a better writer, you have to read, read, read. If you want to be a better reader, you have to write, write, write. Most teachers understand the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing. The question is, how do we get our students to read and write and then write and read some more?

Virtual author visits are a good start. Thanks to Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom, it’s easier than ever to host published authors in your classroom. Last year, my students met with many authors, and each visit inspired them (and me) to read and write with renewed energy and purpose.

Source: Bringing Authors Into Your Classroom | Edutopia

Sound of music at Zunino Stadium – The Reporter

Tom Zunino Stadium at Vacaville High will be alive next month with the sound of music.

With three bands scheduled, a concert to raise money for Vacaville Unified school music departments will be from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at the stadium, 100 W. Monte Vista Ave.

Admission is $10.

Music will be provided by Vacaville High’s California Roll, Buckingham Charter High’s Beyond Gravity, and Wood High’s The Afterschool Special.

Dress for the weather, bring lawn chairs and umbrellas. Refreshments will be available.

Source: Sound of music at Zunino Stadium

Japan Fest fundraiser returns to Fairfield for fifth year – The Reporter

By Jessica Rogness

Fairfield’s Sister City Exchange Program is hosting a fundraiser next month with Japanese music, dance, crafts and food for all ages.

The fifth annual Japan Fest will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Fairfield Community Center, 1000 Kentucky St.

Japan Fest is held the same weekend as the Tomato Festival, just three blocks away.

This year’s performers include Ensohza, a Japanese folk dance group, as well as the Wesley Ukulele Band from San Jose.

The Sacramento Kendo Club will give demonstrations of Japanese martial arts on stage.

Source: Japan Fest fundraiser returns to Fairfield for fifth year

Digital Tools and Distraction in School | Edutopia

By Mary Beth Hertz

As computers become less expensive, many schools are opting to bring low-cost machines such as Chromebooks into the classroom. While this has opened the door to exciting new learning opportunities, with these devices—as well as students’ smartphones—come new challenges, including the distraction factor. How do we teach students to integrate technology into their schoolwork and their learning while also making sure that they’re staying focused on the task at hand?

Focus and Multitasking

In “Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial for Students to Learn to Focus,” Katrina Schwartz refers to studies showing that the ability to focus on a task has been linked to future success. She quotes psychologist Daniel Goleman: “This ability [to focus] is more important than IQ or the socioeconomic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health.”

Source: Digital Tools and Distraction in School | Edutopia

Betsy DeVos Is a K-12 Advocate. So Why All the Action in Higher Ed? – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

When Betsy DeVos was tapped as U.S. Education Secretary, educators and advocates were terrified the longtime voucher fan would try to “privatize” the nation’s schools. But DeVos has now been in office for going on six months, and she’s been way more active on higher education than she has on K-12.

We’re still waiting around for the details of a big, new school choice plan. Meanwhile, DeVos and company have been slowly scaling back, pausing, or moving to overhaul Obama-era student financial aid regulations.

Recently, for instance, the department started gathering information to begin reworking two Obama rules. One, gainful employment, seeks to hold schools accountable for whether or not their graduates are able to find jobs that allow them to repay their student loans. The other, “borrower defense,” deals with how students who have been defrauded by lenders can seek loan forgiveness. (Great explainer from U.S. News here.) Supporters say those regulations were designed to protect borrowers, but detractors say they are overly punitive and unnecessarily hurt schools and lenders.

Source: Betsy DeVos Is a K-12 Advocate. So Why All the Action in Higher Ed? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Annual backpack drive kicking off in Benicia – Times Herald

By Katy St. Clair

It’s not quite back-to-school time, but it is time to start thinking ahead.

That’s why the Family Resource Center is kicking off its annual backpack drive for students who might need a little extra help.

According to the center, it’s estimated that 150 students here will be unable to afford all the school supplies they need. The drive helps people in the community connect with families who could really use fully-stocked backpacks to get their child off on the right foot.

The center is hoping to donate 60 supply-stocked backpacks this year.

They are coordinating with the school district and the Solano County Office of Education, but folks in town are encouraged to bring in the following — gender neutral backpacks suitable for older students (grades 6 through 12), whimsical backpacks for younger students (grades K through 5), wide-rule or college-ruled paper, loose-leaf. Single subject, perforated spiral-bound notebooks; pocketed folders, No. 2 pencils, regular, colored, or mechanical; pens, markers (teachers prefer washable), crayons, rulers, binders, erasers, pencil sharpeners, blunt-ended scissors, glue sticks, basic calculators, and subject dividers for binders.

Source: Annual backpack drive kicking off in Benicia

School resource officer a possibility for Dixon Unified – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Dixon Unified may soon lose an arguably dubious distinction; the only Solano County school district without a school resource officer.

Dixon Police Chief Robert Thompson on Thursday told district trustees that he had applied for federal funding that would pay for, either in full or part, the creation of the new department job.

“It’s critically important to fund and staff” the position, he said during a school board meeting in the Dixon City Council chamber.

School resource officers typically are responsible for providing security and crime-prevention services in U.S. schools. They may also have other duties, including mentoring, speaking about youth-related issues, and, he said at one point, making “soft contacts” with students and staff.

Thompson, a former FBI employee, said he was concerned about “the negative consequences of not having” a school resource officer in the rural eastern Solano County district with 3,500 students across eight campuses.

Source: School resource officer a possibility for Dixon Unified

Trustees table to Aug. 3 Measure Q Citizens Oversight Committee resolution – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Dixon Unified leaders on Thursday tabled until their next meeting, Aug. 3, a resolution to establish the Measure Q Citizens Oversight Committee, the decision coming after nearly three hours of discussion, by turns rancorous, repetitious and frustrating.

The lengthy discussion on the first new business agenda item came as a surprise to some, given the seemingly routine nature of such matters in other school districts, but committee members, who have already been meeting over the past several weeks, objected to the addition of five pages of bylaws, committee procedures and an excerpt from the California Constitution attached to the three-page resolution.

Source: Trustees table to Aug. 3 Measure Q Citizens Oversight Committee resolution

New Travis district students can register July 31 – Daily Republic

By Daily Republic Staff

Travis Unified School District will host a registration day for TK-12 students new to the district on July 31 at the Vanden High School library.

Two sessions will be held: 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Vanden is located at 2951 Markeley Lane, in Fairfield.

Prospective students and parents can complete the registration on site and turn in all required documents. Required documents include two proofs of residence, birth certificate, immunization records and school records from the prior year. If applicable, a current 504 Plan or IEP is also required.

Source: New Travis district students can register July 31

What Happens if Schools and Districts Miss New Academic Goals? Maybe Nothing – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

We need to talk about those goals.

The long-term targets states have put forward in the Every Student Succeeds Act have gotten a lot of attention, positive and negative. What’s a goal? Think about things like 75 percent of students scoring proficient in English/language arts in 13 years, or getting a certain share of kids to graduate on time in eight years.

But there’s something else you should know here: In several situations there may not be any consequences for missing these big targets.

Let’s focus on districts first. Under ESSA, if a district falls short of reaching a goal on any particular indicator, nothing has to happen to that district. By contrast, under the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA’s predecessor, the adequate yearly progress targets applied to both schools and districts.

And what about schools? Nevada plans to use its goals two different ways in school accountability. They want to use them when identifying schools for interventions, and for awarding overall points in school ratings. But there’s nothing forcing states to incorporate goals directly in this sort of way into ratings and other policies impacting individual schools.

Source: What Happens if Schools and Districts Miss New Academic Goals? Maybe Nothing – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Understanding California charter schools: a quick guide | EdSource

By Mikhail Zinshteyn

Charter schools are frequently in the news, but it’s not always clear how they compare to traditional public schools. EdSource has compiled the following FAQ to give readers a quick and clear primer on these public schools that are often the subject of heated political debates. Find out how many charters are in California and in the U.S., what the major fault lines are between charter schools and their opponents, and what some of the functions of charters are that make them distinct from traditional public schools.

What are charter schools, who runs them and how are they different from traditional public schools?

Charter schools are public schools that get funding from the state and enjoy flexibilities in hiring, curriculum and management. Unlike traditional public schools that are run by school districts with an elected school board and a superintendent it appoints, most charter schools are run by organizations with their own self-appointed boards.

Source: Understanding California charter schools: a quick guide | EdSource

Bill With More Than $2 Billion in Teacher-Training Cuts Advances in House – Education Week

By Andrew Ujifusa

Lawmakers in charge of the U.S. Department of Education’s budget voted Wednesday to advance a funding bill that cuts $2.4 billion from the agency’s budget, with most of that reduction coming through the elimination of a major program focused on teachers.

The GOP-backed bill approved by the House appropriations committee on Wednesday by a 28-22 vote cuts the department’s budget to $66 billion. That’s a less-severe cut than the spending blueprint floated by President Donald Trump in May that includes a $9.2 billion reduction. House Republicans followed the Trump budget’s lead and cut the $2 billion Title II program that covers teacher training, as well as class-size reductions.

“We invest in programs that ensure that all students have access to a quality education,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., the chairman of the House appropriations committee. The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

Source: Bill With More Than $2 Billion in Teacher-Training Cuts Advances in House – Politics K-12 – Education Week