February 2013

posted Feb 4, 2013, 9:36 PM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Feb 4, 2013, 9:36 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,


Last month I shared with you our expansion of our 21st century work to include the Common Core standard shift. I also mentioned that there will be a new generation of assessment to replace STAR testing with the implementation of Smarter Balance (planned for 2014-15.) The assessment will require responses beyond multiple choice options and will be computer-adapted (meaning that computer software dynamically adapts the test questions to a difficulty level specific to the student's knowledge or skill).  


We currently have a unique opportunity to pilot a formative assessment that will introduce our community to the online assessment process. The assessment is called i-Ready and it will be given in lieu of the paper/pencil CA benchmark in February. The i-Ready assessment is based on Common Core standards and it is computer-adaptive, though it is still completely multiple choice.  All classes will participate in the online assessment process, so be sure to ask your student his or her opinion of the experience. I hope the students will enjoy the experiment!


On the subject of Common Core, I thank our district leadership for creating a Common Core website page.  Click here to link to the page and learn more about the Common Core. This website is a work in progress and will be embellished with further text and detailed explanations. Currently, the website includes the standards themselves, as well as links to resources.


To help make thoughtful PFC monetary decisions as we work towards Common Core and 21st century, our Strategic Planning Committee has been reviewing school requests for PFC fund approval. With their recommendation, PFC has approved 5 laptops for each of our second grade classrooms and our kindergarten teachers will soon be asking to purchase 5 desktop computers per classroom.  Meanwhile, our MUR sound system is working again sans the ear-splitting feedback, and our 21st coach will continue to support our teachers as we march towards becoming a 21st century community implementing Common Core standards to prepare students for college and career readiness. 


I am also happy to report that we have recently received a $15,000 matching grant for laptops from the Hedco Foundation. (Thanks to a parent grant writer who wishes to remain anonymous.) We have 2 years to match the grant which will allow us to purchase $30,000 worth of laptops. I'll inform you as the funds are matched and expended.


Since I am publicizing the generosity of our larger community, you should also know this year through Donor's Choose, with strong support from Chevron, we have received an LCD projector for 3rd grade, a boom box for each kindergarten class, 4 cordless microscopes for the science lab, $800 worth of literature sets for 4th grade, $400 worth of art supplies for the art room, and an ipad for one of our SDC classes.


Profound gratitude to you, to Hedco, as well as to Donor's Choose and Chevron, for much appreciated support as we continue to grow and enhance our ability to serve children!  We are indebted to our school community members and the larger community for their financial assistance.


If you would like to offer your services as we continue to enhance our educational program, please consider the following work to be accomplished for our children:


Apply for the new site tech I position (FTE .15) for 6 hours per week in the computer lab or talk to a neighbor who might be interested in the job. For further information please refer to the MDUSD website under classified job announcements (click here) or contact personnel office at 682-8000 X 7500.


Volunteer to serve in the library every other Thursday from 12:15-12:55 p.m. so that we can have our library open for 4th-5th grade students every Thursday. (Thanks to our wonderful library volunteers our library will be open at lunch from 12:15-12:55 p.m. every Friday starting on 2/1 for students to enjoy. At this point, every other Thursday starting on 2/14 the library will also be open and we will have an ARF therapy dog visit so that students may read to a 4-legged friend.)


Volunteer at lunch recess a few times this year. We need your support both in the lunch room and on the playground. We now have lanyards for all volunteers to wear that designate a particular area for each noon recess volunteer to oversee. We also have pocketsize playground rules and suggestions for redirecting and guiding children at play to guide your efforts.


One more service request that we can all embrace -

A few folks have recently shared with me that they feel isolated at our school. That saddens me because I know this is a caring and accepting community. I invite you to smile and say hello to our most vulnerable students, our children with autism. I also encourage you to take every opportunity to connect with parents who may not be on campus as often as others, and those parents who may not feel as connected due to language or ethnic diversity. Please take an extra moment to be inclusive with a smile and hello or by engaging folks in conversation. As the wonderful educator and writer, Leo Buscaglia, used to say, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."


Here's to our continued learning and growing together,


Colleen Dowd