January 21, 2015
Dear Loma Parents/Guardians:
Thoughts from Tuesday Night: So What Happens on a Staff Development Day
The kids were off Tuesday, but your educational team was here. There are always a myriad of things to work on - common core curriculum, educational best practices, concerns and strategies for struggling students, and more. This session, we also conducted our annual refresh of our safety plans for emergencies. We always want to be prepared for uncertainties. We recognize that no plan can outline step-by-step procedures for every scenario. There are basic practices such as first aid training for our staff and practice fire, earthquake, and evacuation drills. It is a sea change in educational practice to now have to prepare for “active shooter” scenarios as well.
We were joined by Deputy Travis Huntsman of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office for a refresher on our plans and procedures. Officer Huntsman presented both the current set of best practices, but also a real world perspective about how unpredictable a scenario would be like in real life. Teachers and staff all had time to reflect on how they would respond to various situations. What exit routes are there? What furniture could be used to barricade doors and provide shelter? When would it make sense to hustle kids out of the school, and when would it be safer to stay? What about an emergency that happens when kids are out doors or getting on a bus? The reality is, we will never know exactly what emergency we may face. We prepare by honing our professional judgment.
In an emergency, regardless of origin, strong leadership and good decision-making become critical elements. All of our teachers, and most of our non-teaching staff, are trained in first aid, CPR and how use the AED. Our team has practiced drills and discussed scenarios. We will continue to use every opportunity to improve our communication, practice our protocols, and revisit what we can adjust in our responses. Hopefully, we will never need this training, but it is important to have it. In case of an emergency at school, of any kind, we will need your help too. We will need you to be as calm as possible and to wait for instructions as to where and when to pick up your kids. It will be hard to wait, but if 300 parents, or even half of that all converge on the parking lot, the access for emergency vehicles will be cut off. Cars parked in the red zone will impede access. Buses that we would use for evacuation will be blocked from entering and evacuation will be delayed.
We have a dedicated group of professionals here at Loma and CT who will do everything in their power to get your kids back to you safely. Please let us. We will use ParentLink and web-based e-broadcasts to keep you up to date on pick up procedures. Working as a team, parents and staff, we can best respond to any emergency by listening and following directions. We are teaching the kids to do that in response to emergencies. We will need everyone’s help in the event of a major incident. While we hate to think about these things, please know that we do so in order to assure the safety and well being of your kids.
On a lighter note: CT Electives Expand
We have been working this year to expand the offerings for our middle schoolers. We have heard loud and clear that the students would like more choices, and they want music! Though small, we are taking some steps toward real electives (not just the ones we elect to offer) here in the second half of the year. Sixth grade students were able to join many eighth graders in getting to select their 6th period class for the second semester. I am delighted to have been able to open up a music elective rotating in 6th period as well as expanding the opportunities for leadership, teaching assistant positions, and homework head start (which was a very popular selection). Every student in this group got either their first or second choice for their elective. We are making strides towards having more student driven choices and a wide selection to choose from. We appreciate that your contributions to LPEF have helped us make good things happen for kids at both Loma and CT. Thank you.
In keeping with our efforts to expand musical options, I am including information on the Los Gatos Community Concert Series held at Los Gatos High School. This long-standing series is both highly regarded and convenient. We heard from middle schoolers this fall that they want more access to music. We are happy to have added music for some students and look forward to expanding the program. Your family can also help fuel the passion for music just down the hill. There is a concert this weekend and two more to follow this spring. Please see the attached flyer for more details.
Testing, Testing, 1,2,3 - The Smarter Balanced Testing System is Coming
As most of you know, the State of California is moving to computer-based testing this year. Both the manner (computer-based) of delivery and the content (the types of tasks and questions asked) is radically changing under the new Common Core standards. During the spring, our students participated in a “test of the test” to give test developers feedback on the computer based tasks. We are told that some adjustments have been made for this spring’s round of assessments, but it will be all new for everyone. Truthfully, this year’s first full administration of the test will give us a baseline of our student’s performance, but will not be a particularly sound measurement of student success. There will not be year over year data for comparison for some time. The tests are built to measure progress in terms of Common Core standards, but students have only been working in Common Core for a year. A fifth grade test, for example, will not measure four years of old standards and one year of new ones. Each grade level test assumes all the prior years of Common Core attainment. The data will be skewed for some time and more information will be forthcoming shortly in the State’s roll out. We promise to keep you posted.
In the meantime, we are taking steps to ready 3rd-8th grade students for the new testing format and ancillary skills. For example, students now type responses and multiple choice is gone. Keyboarding skills are not actually tested, but a student’s comfort with a keyboard will impact their performance on the test. Students will be required to use web-based measuring tools and work through simulations. Our on-line math program ALEKS has helped students become more comfortable with web-based tools, but we know we have continued work to do in this area. Adjustments to the curriculum - particularly in technology - are in progress at both schools. We recognize that we must make investments in both technology and time to help our students be ready for both the changes in testing procedures, but also in how work is done in the real world. When was the last time you bubbled in the right answer in the real world? We are moving your kids into the future of education and preparing them for life beyond the classroom.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership.
Loma HSC News
TAKE THE NIGHT OFF FROM COOKING – Mark your calendar for next Friday, January 30th for the Home and School Club annual Spaghetti Dinner and Movie Night. Celebrity chef, Alex Leman, of the Loma Volunteer Fire & Rescue will be cooking a delicious spaghetti dinner at 6pm in the Loma gym. HSC will be showing the moving “How to train Your Dragon 2”. Doors open at 6pm for dinner. Movie starts at 7pm with popcorn and sweets available for purchase. Bring your blankets and chairs. A portion of funds raised will be donated to the Love Me Tender campaign. If you can help with setup or cleanup, please contact Amy Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.