September 14, 2015

posted Feb 22, 2016, 3:38 PM by PFC Webmaster   [ updated Feb 22, 2016, 3:43 PM ]

Hello, Walnut Acres parents!

Thank you for joining teachers at our recent Back to School Nights (BSN).

We annually provide separate grade-level BSN evenings because we want to

ensure that no parent has to choose which grade-level event they will attend.

Thanks to those of you who joined me, as well, to hear about our school vision and

our ongoing efforts to make that vision a reality. A few folks asked about the "Did

You Know?" video I shared with you. I am linking you to it here, in case you want

to share it with a friend. It could serve as fuel for some interesting discussions.

School safety

Our academic program is second only to safety. Our Safety Plan is being

finalized now by our School Site Council (SSC) and will be available to the

public after it is approved by the Board. Our goals include enhanced learning

rigor and student ownership of learning as measured by students and

parents, strengthened problem-solving skills in the classroom and on the

playground as indicated by students and teachers, as well as updates to

Emergency Plan reviews and AED training for selected staff and volunteers. To

support safety on the roads around our school, take a look at the Back to School

Safety Tips developed by the Walnut Creek Police Dept. and now on our website.

Remember that we have the side gate open on Wiget for school drop-off in

the morning to support safe school access.

Curriculum and instruction

Reader's Workshop implementation is our instructional focus for 2015-

2017. Teachers have all participated in an introductory training taught by our

Workshop Coach extraordinaire, Nicole Padoan. The training was possible thanks to

your financial support as PFC members, and coaching will continue throughout the

year due to your PFC contributions. By the end of 2017 all students will be fluent

with the Reader's Workshop approach. Within Workshop, students will be taught

crucial reading strategies and asked to apply those strategies to their self-selected

reading materials. While phonemic awareness, phonics, structural analysis, and

word origins remain crucial components of decoding mastery, we will now infuse

Reader's Workshop to enhance reading comprehension, differentiate

reading by interest and skill level, and deepen reading enjoyment.

We will also continue honing our implementation of Writer's Workshop.

Students in all general education classes will be taught writing strategies to apply

to their own stories, research, and opinion-sharing. It is exciting that Walnut Acres

students will now be enjoying their second or third year of workshop experience.

The positive shift in student attitudes toward writing and their confidence as

writers is thrilling! Case in point, two of our creative learners who forgot the rules

at the end of the year were sent to me for a reminder. I asked them to write about

why a particular regulation needed to be in effect. They dutifully thought about the

task I had assigned, and earnestly asked, "Dr. Dowd, do you want a persuasive

essay or an informational text?" I could have hugged them both! Thanks to our

amazing coach, our dedicated teachers, and your support, we are creating

confident, capable writers. I hope that this year and next, you will see a similar

transformation in student attitude about reading.

Our math focus remains targeted on helping students to learn math

computation while understanding the concepts behind those algorithms,

then apply their new knowledge to the real world. We are enhancing student

ability to think about and discuss alternative approaches to problem solving with

Singapore Math, EngageNY, and Silicon Valley Math Initiative strategies.

We are persistently developing our technology infusion activities within our

instructional practices with a focus on producer technologies for critical and

creative thinking, while consumer technologies support content mastery. We are

also continuing our exploration of design thinking with projects that allow

students to experience the design process and continuing hands-on learning in

our Science lab. For new Walnut Acres families, let me reiterate that much of

what we accomplish in science and technology, and with differentiated learning is

possible because of parental financial support provided through PFC. Thank you!

It's going to be a great learning year for teachers and students alike! As adults we

will model for our students the concept of lifelong learning, the inevitability of

occasional failure when tackling novel tasks, and the joy inherent in struggling and

learning together.

Supporting learning at Walnut Acres

There are many ways you can support your child's learning. Volunteering in the

classroom, the library, or the Learning Center are just a few. Remember, all

parents are automatically Parent Faculty Club (PFC) members and your input

matters, so joining the PFC leadership at meetings is another powerful way to

participate in the workings of our school. You are also welcome to attend all SSC

meetings. They are open to the public and the agendas (and minutes) are posted

on the bulletin board in front of the office as well as on the school website.

Here are a few more timebound opportunities to support learning:

1. Family Life is included in the grade 5 curriculum. In late Spring,

teachers will show a film about physical maturation to 5th grade students.

Boys and girls will separately view the movie Boy to Man or Girl to Woman

respectively. Teachers leading the gender-alike groups will then review and

answer questions about the bodily changes our budding adolescents will

experience. Materials being used for instruction are available for inspection

and preview at the District Instructional Media Center, C-2, Willow Creek

Center, 1026 Mohr Lane, Concord, weekdays 10/5/15-10/9/15 from 8:00

a.m.-4:30 p.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m. This availability will be repeated during

the same timeframes from 1/25/16-1/29/16. You may request that your

child be excused from this instructional plan by communicating with your

child's teacher.

2. There is a Bay Area Science Festival on Saturday, 10/24 from 9-12:00

p.m. at the CSU East Bay Concord Campus (4700 Ygnacio Valley Rd.) for

children 5-14 years of age. Contact Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla's office at

925-521-1511 for further information. Click here to view the flyer.

3. Read about the ScholarShare College Savings Plan because financial

readiness is a crucial component of college preparedness. Check it out on the

California Department of Education (CDE) website or click here to view the

information from Tom Torlakson under Current News on our school website.

4. If you would like to support Walnut Acres on Walnut Creek's Annual

Community Service Day, Saturday 10/10/15, from 9:00 a.m.-12:00

p.m., you are invited to register as a volunteer to label Reader's Workshop

books or help clean our gardens at http://www.walnutcreek.


State testing results

And hot off the press before I sign off-the California State Test (CST) science

scores (for 5th grade students only) are now public. Click here to view

Walnut Acres science results or visit the CDE website. Baseline Smarter

Balanced scores are also available on the CDE website, or click here to view

reading and math scores for grades 3-5 on our website. Individual student

scores will be mailed home to parents once the district receives that data from

the state.

Once you get scores, you may be interested in perusing the free online tool from

GreatSchools, designed to help parents understand their child's Smarter Balanced

score report and find resources to support learning at home. Please visit the

California GreatKids State Guide for Parents Website for an explanation of your

child's scores.

Collaborating to prepare our children for their future

I look forward to a collaborative year of learning and growing as we prepare our

children for "jobs that don't yet exist, using technology that hasn't been invented

yet, to solve problems we haven't yet labeled as problems." (Did You Know? 2014

remixed). As author Will Richardson recommends, "Together we will encourage our

children to connect with others, prepare them to collaborate and create on a global

scale, and teach them to do work that matters."

Here's to our collaboration around the work that matters to us: our kids!


Colleen Dowd


Walnut Acres Elementary, 180 Cerezo Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

PFC Webmaster,
Feb 22, 2016, 3:38 PM