March 11, 2015
Dear Loma Parents/Guardians:
Thoughts From Tuesday Night
I am a big fan of understanding how kids learn. I am a big fan of discerning what students comprehend and what concepts they are ready to master next. I am a big fan of creating learning environments that support different learning styles and cognitive strengths. I am a big fan of multiple measures that help students; teachers, parents, and administrators shape teaching and learning experiences in our schools.
I am not a big fan of testing for testing’s sake. I welcome the shift away from STAR testing which had outlived its usefulness. I also worry that the new testing format will shortchange students, families, and educators if we just swap out one set of tests for another. I have begun seeing ads for merchandise promising to help parents help their kids score higher on the upcoming tests. This causes me great concern.
There is no perfect test to reassure us that our kids are learning all that they need to be successful in life. There is no single test that can measure the effectiveness of schools or individual classrooms. There is no silver bullet that will address the multiple challenges facing public education. Three million students will take the new assessments this year. Some will have come to school ready to learn. Some will come to school hungry. Some will come to school speaking a language no adult at school either speaks or understands. Some kids will come to school having had the benefits of tutors, summer enrichment, music lessons, engaging conversations at the dinner table, and much, much more. Then, we are going to give them all the same test. It will be tempting to start labeling schools “good or bad” based on the scores earned in their buildings.
I believe that at Loma and CT English we will resist the short answers and look critically at the data. What kinds of tasks do our students do well in? Where do we see institutional gaps? What kinds of professional development and curriculum enhancements will help our teachers become more effective in a new era of teaching? This is not just a new era of assessment. We are called to embrace a new era of teaching to higher standards, fostering more rigorous critical thinking, developing transferability of knowledge between subject areas, increasing effectiveness of communication, and so much more.
These new assessments are not intended to be precise accountings of what your kids know. These assessments will give us an opportunity to see a new kind of data and then decide how that data should inform our teaching. I am excited to have a new lens and new information about how students use the skills we work with them to develop. I ask only that we set out on this venture with curiosity and an open mind. These are two cornerstones of all learning. Let’s begin to learn about these new tools together.
Testing Tidbits #3 – Including updates from Sacramento
A new era of state testing is getting underway in California with the system wide change impacting more than 3 million students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 this spring. Locally, our students will begin taking practice exams and formative assessments in Language Arts and math over the next several weeks, with the full battery of new tests rolling out in April and May.
The new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in the first statewide administration of new tests to replace the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The new tests allow students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically, and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts.
Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction weighed in this week saying, “These tests reflect the exciting changes taking place in California classrooms. Instead of being asked to merely pick out multiple-choice answers, students are being tested on their ability to reason and think. They must draw logical conclusions and cite evidence from what they have read, and they must solve real-world math problems,” Torlakson said. “And now, like an academic check-up, these tests will give parents, teachers, and schools the feedback they need to help students succeed.”
The assessment system reflects a move to setting higher academic standards, giving local schools and communities more control over spending decisions, and providing more resources to students with the greatest needs. “This is about helping students succeed in the long run and realize their dreams of attending college and working in rewarding careers,” Torlakson said.
Torlakson also cautioned parents and the public against comparing the results of the new assessments with the old STAR exams, and acknowledged that many schools and students will need more time to become attuned to the state’s new standards and the tests that go with them. “The new tests are too different from the old exams to make reliable comparisons between old scores and new,” Torlakson said. “This year’s test results will establish a baseline for the progress we expect students to make over time.”
Mrs. Carino’s Spotlight: The Loma Library
Nicole Fichthorn runs the Loma Library with Love.
Nicole enjoys taking care of the library so that it is both convenient and helpful for students and teachers.
What students say:
“I love that Mrs. Fichthorn reads to us when we come to the library”.
“The books she picks to read to us are funny”.
“It is peaceful and quiet in the library. I can relax there”.
“I love that there are so many books. My favorites are the cookbooks”.
“Mrs. Fichthorn is really, really, really the nicest librarian”.
“Mrs. Fichthorn is good at organizing”.
“There are some books that are read so many times, by so many kids, that they are getting worn”.
What teachers say:
“I love that half my class can visit the library while I work with the other half in a small group setting”.
“Mrs. Fichthorn cares about what is being studied in class. She works with classroom teachers to pull books and she reads books on the topic of study”.
“Mrs. Fichthorn adds elements of current events and cross curricular fun to the library. She just helped students celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday by setting up a bowl of colorful goldfish crackers and by running a “One Fish, Two Fish, Estimate the Number of Fish in the Bowl Contest”.
When I discuss a certain book that I am thinking of using with my class, Mrs. Fichthorn expands the conversation by providing titles of other interesting books that complement what I am working on with my students. She is extremely knowledgeable”.
What Mrs. Carino says:
“I love that we have a culture of reading at Loma. When asked to identify a favorite book, the majority of students did not hesitate to offer a title”.
“Some favorites include: Harry Potter, The Box Car Children, The Real Boy, The Warriors Series, etc”.
“I think it is great that the Library is open to the students at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays”.
“I like that the library computers are available to students who want to take AR quizzes”.
Spring Pictures at Loma
Mark your calendar – March 31st is Loma Spring Picture Day. Follow the instruction on the attached flyer for ordering pictures.
Loma HSC News
Noon time jogging – Help our kids get ready for the jog-a-thon! We need more volunteers to help count laps around the track once a week from 11:50 – 12:20pm. Please contact Amy Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently offering Sponsorship opportunities for the Jog-A-thon T-Shirts, which feature artwork from 2 lucky students. These are well-loved keepsakes that the kids treasure and wear for many years. Please contact Nora Kim for more details at email@example.com.
If you have not already ordered your student/s a yearbook, now is the time! Click on the TreeRing graphic on the lower right side of the HSC website www.lomaprietahsc.org. New this year, you can create 2 custom pages for your student’s yearbook; add shots you’ve taken throughout the year.
Mark your calendar – the annual science fair is on Saturday, March 28th from 2-5pm. Come experience some really cool science, interactive science demonstrations for kids of all ages. Free admission, and new this year – the Road Dogs Food Truck will be there from 1 -5pm. Come get lunch and/or take-out for dinner.
Enrichment Classes and Family Dance
The HSC is a volunteer based organization and we need your help! We are currently looking for volunteers to help with after school enrichment classes and the family dance. Please contact Amy Olson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dinosaurs Before Dark
Come see our rising stars this Friday, 7pm, Saturday 7pm and Sunday 1pm. For tickets please visit: theatreinthemountains.org
The Amazing Mountain Race is returning on May 2, 2015
“The Amazing Mountain Race” is a small version of the hit reality television show, The Amazing Race. Instead of teams traveling around the world, our competing teams scout throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains and neighboring towns, completing challenges in order to get the clue for their next destination. This event, our 3rd annual, is the largest fundraising event for Building Blocks Preschool. All proceeds from this event will go towards funding our early childhood program, supporting kids that are on their way to Loma Prieta Elementary.
The Race: Racing teams spend the morning dressed in team costumes, taking part in fun family “challenges”, all while exploring the unknown secrets of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Space is limited to 25 racing teams. Please sign up and purchase tickets on our website now!
The Carnival: The race will be followed by a BBQ lunch and celebration at Maison du Lac on Summit Road. This will include loads of fun entertainment for the kids (a bouncy house, a scavenger hunt, bubbles, painting, a petty zoo, and lots more). There will also be a silent auction, and an awards ceremony with prizes for the racing teams. The carnival and BBQ is open to everyone, even families that didn’t race. Please see our website to purchase tickets.
Building Blocks Open House
Building Blocks Co-Operative Preschool is holding an open house this coming Saturday, March 14th from 10am to 1pm. Come play with us! We are opening registration for our fall program, with the Tuesday/Thursday program suitable for 2.5-4 year olds, and the Monday/Wednesday/Friday program suitable for 4-5 year olds.
We believe in enriching the lives of our little ones and would love for you to be a part of our family.