February Message from the Principle

posted Mar 12, 2014, 7:29 PM by Jana Corral   [ updated Mar 12, 2014, 7:31 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Happy February, Parents,


Thanks to you and our hard-working teachers and staff, life is good at Walnut Acres. Our children are learning both academically and socially, and we are doing our best to help them enjoy that process. We may be recognized by the state for our joint efforts on behalf of our children. Our Distinguished School application passed the written phase of the process and we will have a visit from a Distinguished School Committee on Tuesday, 4/15/14, as the last step towards being declared a 2014 Distinguished School. 


Academically, our transformation to become a 21st century learning community continues. We began 4 years ago learning about 21st century work and ultimately began shifting our instruction to provide for more student choice and ownership of learning. Hopefully, you now see signs of deepened critical thinking in the work your child is completing, and you are hearing anecdotes from your child about collaborative learning activities and technology-infused instruction. We are still learning skills and strategies to enhance our implementation of the 6 Cs, but we are well on our way. For those of you who are not familiar with the foundational 6 C's of 21st century learning, they are:


Critical thinking

Creative thinking



Global Citizenship

Content mastery


It is energizing and timely that the state is implementing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) because it emphasizes our 21st century endeavors, while providing specific guidelines for Content mastery. The standards themselves, the skills and knowledge that students are to learn, will entail a comparatively small portion of the shift in our teaching. In fact, 85% of the Common Core Standards actually parallel the CA State Standards previously in place (although some standards have shifted to new grade levels). It is more the depth of rigor mandated by the CCSS that requires enhanced constructivist-type instructional strategies and student activities.  Students will need to be able to wrestle with real-life problems, and become genuine problem solvers who can share their thinking and learning effectively. That shift in approach has been and will continue to be the work of our 21st century learning community transformation. 


The accountability for CCSS is the Smarter Balanced assessment which is being piloted across the state this spring. If you would like to take a practice test or check out a training test, click here to download the secure browser that allows you to take either test. The practice tests are designed to provide a grade-specific testing experience; while the training test's purpose is to help students understand the test format and how they will interact with the technology.


Please note that there will be no Smarter Balanced assessments results for our school, teachers, or parents from this year's Smarter Balanced assessment. Instead, the assessment results will allow the California Department of Education to check test validity and system capacity for online testing. There will be results for 5th grade CST Science testing.  


Our testing date will be in early May and I will keep you posted on further details so you can ask your student about their experience. Meanwhile, I am reminding you of a number of activities happening in February:


Tomorrow, Tuesday, 2/18, is a very important PFC meeting with the hot topic of 'fund raising - your crucial role in keeping WA functioning.' It is being held at 8:15 a.m. in the library. Please join us so you can learn about your collective role in maintaining the programs and practices at our school.


On Thursday, 2/20, Soul Shoppe will be returning to Walnut Acres to present an assembly titled, "Being an Ally". This is the same group that introduced the Peace Path and led our peacemaker trainings. Each grade level will have a 45-minute presentation on the theme of students supporting one another. Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to reduce bullying is for students to stand up for one another. You are welcome to join us, but remember to sign in at the office first and please sit in the back of the room so you don't distract the audience. Check with your child's teacher for the time of your child's assembly. (All assemblies are in the MUR, except for K assemblies in A-5.)


The student council would like me to tell you that Friday, 2/21, is a special Spirit Day. It will be a Twin Day


On Saturday, 2/22, we are hosting an e-waste collection. If you have any electronics you would like to discard, pass through the drive-through between 

9-1:00 p.m. and volunteers will take them off your hands.


On Tuesday, 2/25, Dr. Meyer, MDUSD Superintendent, will speak to parents in the Northgate cafeteria regarding the new local control funding (LCFF) formula and its impact to MDUSD.  (In my previous message I indicated the meeting would be in a different part of campus. Please note the change to better allow for collaborative discussion.) Dr. Meyer is also seeking input from parents as the district develops a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). To assure students get the support they need, the plan must address 8 target areas of learning clustered in the 3 groupings of Conditions of Learning, Pupil Outcomes, and Engagement. Please join Dr. Meyer from 6:30-8:00 p.m. to learn about the new funding formula and provide input regarding the soon-to-be-developed accountability plan. I highly recommend this opportunity to you. For further details, click here. If you cannot make the meeting, note other opportunities to participate from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on:


2/20 at Diablo View Middle, MUR

3/18 at Concord High, choir room

4/8 at Mt. Diablo High, Romaine Hall

4/10 at Riverview Middle School, MUR

5/20 at College Park High, library


I close this message with my heartfelt thanks for your support of our wonderfully dynamic school. YOU help make Walnut Acres a great learning environment for our children through the events you sponsor and the money you raise to support school processes and programs.


As I prepare this message, we have recently completed a very successful Science Fair event, thanks to our parent coordinators, Terry Lindeman and Emily Johnson. We are starting our PEP program in which trained parents, led by Julie Connelly and Laurie Light, reinforce our life skill work. And we are offering valuable after-school enrichment classes thanks to Lisa McGuiness and Naomi Hughes. Soon our annul Art Show, coordinated by Robin Piantidosi, will take center stage. These are powerful additions to our school-sponsored programs.


Coming soon, the most crucial fund raiser of the year, our school auction, will be taking place. I know that you will do what you can to support this fund raiser so that we can continue the work of providing our students with the academic and life skills they will need to succeed as citizens and leaders in a dynamic, globally-interdependent society. Visionary educator, John Dewey, who lived in the mid-20th century wrote, "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow. " A student on a You Tube blog, bluntly shared the same sentiment this way, "I cannot create my future, with tools from your past."  Thanks for your ongoing efforts to help prepare our children to meet their future.



Colleen Dowd

Walnut Acres Principal