October, Message from the Principal

posted Oct 6, 2014, 1:06 PM by Jana Corral   [ updated Oct 6, 2014, 1:07 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres Parents,


Welcome to October and the start of the wonderful fall season. All is well at Walnut Acres, with students now into the routine of school and teachers working diligently to provide a meaningful and engaging learning experience for each child in class.  


Please remember that as a partner in your child's education, we count on you to share with us if our learning plan for your student is on target, too overwhelming because of time-consuming homework or confusing lessons, or too simplistic. Our teachers are experts in creating learning experiences, but we count on you for individual feedback because you are the expert when it comes to your child!




I have a very important plea to make on the crucial topic of safety. A loving WA grandfather shared anxiously with me that he witnessed a near-accident the other day, when a busy mom distracted by a young child in the back seat, nearly ran over a child in the crosswalk! Our wonderful crossing guard, Bertha Russ, pulled the child back and saved the day, but the parent went on through the crosswalk and sped away without even realizing the close call! I double-checked this incident with Ms. Russ, and she shared with me that the careless driving scenario was, unfortunately, not a singular event. Please be careful driving around our children. We all have places to go and people to see, but imagine how you would feel if you hit a child!




A new Web page is available on the California Department of Education (CDE)Common Core Channel:  Why the Common Core State Standards in California?Please visit this page to view videos and other resources explaining California's commitment to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and communications resources.


Common Core: One principal's perspective

I realize there is some controversy about the Common Core curriculum and I was discussing that topic with parents recently. They suggested that some folks may be interested in my perspective. I am sharing it below, but please note that I am providing my professional opinion. I am not speaking for anyone other than myself.


As a young teacher in the 1980s I relished strategies that helped students take responsibility and joy in the learning process, such as project-based learning and cooperative learning. I was excited when the state began to develop standards so that all students would have access to a well-developed and carefully crafted K-12 curriculum. I was also pleased with the subsequent accountability movement designed to ensure that we were implementing and successfully teaching the standards


Theoretically, all was good, but realistically, most experts agree that standard-creators were over-exuberant and developed far too many standards. The limitations of test design for large numbers of students also led to a state test (STAR) that inadequately assessed student knowledge through a shallow multiple choice-only format.  This format limited the depth of questions that could be asked and student thinking that could be measured. As STAR assessment results took on a significance beyond educator intention, (so crucial that local housing prices fluctuated according to a single Academic Performance Index measure of the neighborhood school) it became difficult for educational personnel to avoid 'teaching to the test'. Over the years, as districts and schools focused on attaining ever-stronger API scores, curriculum and instruction efforts mirrored the STAR assessment by focusing on a large amount of material presented with little depth. Our instructional materials-including fill-in-the blank, multiple-choice workbook pages-reflected that broad, but shallow, focus. 


With the advent of Common Core standards I am thrilled that we are returning to a focus on depth of knowledge and an emphasis on the ability to flexibly problem-solve. Our 21st century 6 Cs of Collaboration, Creative thinking, Critical thinking, Communication, global Citizenship, and Content mastery, are infused within the standards, along with technology integration, to powerfully structure a framework of learning for our students. With the next-generation of assessments now online, the Smarter Balanced assessment presents information in video, picture and traditional written formats while gathering student knowledge in 16 different ways (including short and long written responses and matching, as well as traditional, single-answer multiple choice questions).


Of course there will be challenges with the Common Core Standards and our assessment process, but that is to be expected with any sea change. Ultimately, I am delighted to embrace the compelling mission of preparing our students for the dynamic, technology-rich world they will inhabit with scaffolded, multi-leveled learning experiences that include the Workshop Approach, Design Thinking, Project-Based Learning, and the Experimental Method. Our students will benefit enormously from this shift! Having taught in 4 different states, I can also tell you that I am relieved we are finally looking at standards and assessment tools across states! This broad collaboration will heighten all educational dialogue, enrich professional development and enhance student success in our transient world.   




Thank you to all parents for your diligence in getting students to school every day on time, working as a team player with your child's teacher to build a successful school learning experience, and for the volunteerism you model every day! Together we create a wonderful, enticing learning climate for our children. I don't know much about baseball, but a great man once commented:  


"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You  

 may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but  

if they  don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."  

~Babe Ruth





Colleen Dowd, Principal