September 13, 2010

posted Oct 6, 2010, 4:00 PM by Anna Saunders   [ updated Oct 6, 2010, 4:03 PM by PFC Webmaster ]

Hello Walnut Acres parents,

I thank you all for attending our Back to School Nights. I enjoyed chatting with many of you and I hope you enjoyed learning about the curriculum, activities and procedures in your child's classroom. If you did not attend the principal's welcome and "State of Walnut Acres" presentation prior to your classroom visit, I invite you to check out the principal's power point on the Walnut Acres website. The key message that I want to share with all of you is that we are off to a great start on the year with a total of 624 unique and wonderful learners thanks to our collaborative efforts. Accolades to all our active parents, and in particular our dedicated PFC leaders and chairs, for working with teachers and me to create a smooth and dynamic launch to our 2010-11 school year! 

As you may know, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) leadership has created explicit District Goals as a first step in developing a districtwide strategic plan. These goals are outlined along with performance targets, strategies and district support plans on the MDUSD website. The targets for growth revolve around enhanced achievement to bring all students to proficient or advanced levels in reading and math. At Walnut Acres we will continue to work toward success for all students in these curriculum areas using the state-required STAR assessment as one indicator of that growth. The district has determined that all schools will meet their annual school and significant subgroup state API (Academic Performance Index) targets. (Schools with an API over 800 do not have a state API target.) Our base API was 934 and our spring 2010 STAR scores indicate that our current API is 936. Significant subgroups include student groups of specific ethnicity or category (such as Students with Disabilities) with at least 100 students or 15% of the population so that their scores are considered to be statistically significant. Our only significant subgroup currently is our white student population which increased from an API score of 934 in 2009 to 946 in 2010.

The district has set specific targets for increases in the number of students who score proficient and above on specific district language arts and math benchmarks. Benchmarks are tests designed to alert teachers to individual student levels of standard mastery so that the teacher can then determine further instruction based on specific student needs. At Walnut Acres we are participating in the benchmark process as we use both the RAP (Reading Assessment Program) and the CA (Curriculum Associates) benchmarks to monitor student progress. We have also instituted a cycle of inquiry process which provides a structure for teachers to practice action research in their classrooms - setting a hypothesis and plan for increasing student success toward standard mastery, then developing measures to check the accuracy of their plan implementations.   
We will continue to focus on other areas of the academic curriculum, as well, including science. Our departmentalized 5th grade now has a specific time period for science, along with social studies, in order to ensure its inclusion, and our 1st through 5th grades will take advantage of our science lab to provide hands-on learning experiences. (Second throughfifth grades will use the lab once a week.) The lab will soon boast a new electronic microscope and video monitor to expand our teaching opportunities and enhance student learning. This addition to our science lab is available thanks to the generosity of all of you as PFC members.

Because we know that our children have social and emotional needs as well as academic needs, we are honing our current climate plan to ensure that we are doing all we can to support a positive learning atmosphere on our campus and make students feel welcome, safe and nurtured. We have reinstituted our Climate Committee and created a 2010-11 Walnut Acres School Climate Plan using data from last year's feeder pattern survey to parents, teachers, and students as baseline data. (For a review of survey results please check the WA website.) You will soon begin to see the results of our efforts to hone procedures that help keep students safe (such as our new ball storage structure) and activities (such as our upcoming Celebration Wall) that help students feel valued. I will keep you informed about other outcomes of this committee's work on behalf of our children. 

I encourage you to keep yourself up-to-date about Walnut Acres news that affects your children, through the PFC website, the Walnut Acres website, or the MDUSD website. My door is open to you if you want to share ideas or concerns. Meanwhile, remember that the best way to build student success for your child this year is to work collaboratively with your child's teacher. As the old saying goes, a teacher is a child's third parent! 

Yours in learning,