November 2016

Happy Thanksgiving month, Walnut Acres Parents!

We are enjoying the cooler weather at school as we cultivate student brain power and nurture our learning family.

Instruction and Curriculum
We continue to teach reading and writing strategies through Workshop, practice Number Talks and multiple method strategies in math, provide hands-on science lab investigations, and experience the world of programming with Spheros, Ozobots, littleBits, and assorted enticing devices. Every class has spent some exploration time in our Colab and we will soon be shifting our focus to create or enhance the rigor of a project-based learning activity at each grade level using our Colab space and tools.

One ongoing and longtime component of our programming instruction is our annual Hour of Code; this year, it takes place the week of 12/5-12/9. Students at every grade level will have an opportunity to learn and practice some coding skills and we hope to have Foothill and Northgate students join us to support the fun. If you are interested in participating to help our young programmers, watch for a Konstella volunteer invitation coming soon.

Assessment
While we are teaching we are also focusing this month on assessing student progress in advance of report cards and parent conferences coming in December. Teachers will be sharing various assessment results with you, including observations and daily work products, to give you a picture of your child’s progress.
As a site we also want to monitor student progress in order to assess our schoolwide programs and instructional choices. As we do each trimester, we will be collecting Teacher’s College Running Records and iReady diagnostic tests to analyze whole school progress, and we will be reviewing the advancement of students in specific support programs, including our classes for our English Language Learners and our reading intervention program.
Our running record data at this point tells us that across grade levels 80% of our students are meeting or exceeding beginning-of-year grade level reading benchmarks. According to research-based standards for success (Response to Intervention criteria) that means our instructional curriculum (Workshop) is effective. The same body of data also indicates that our intervention work is successful, with fewer students starting in the at-risk category compared to last year. We are concluding that the additional reading intervention support to upper grades, as well as the purchase of an intervention program that aligns with Reading Workshop, helped to make that difference.

Now a note of appreciation is in order, because last year PFC paid for extra reading intervention and indirectly supported our intervention program purchase. You funded another part-time reading/ELD intervention teaching position (12 hours per week) which allowed us to broaden and deepen our intervention services. Site funds purchased the Fountas & Pinnell reading intervention program aligned to the Workshop Model last year, but as a site we could expend limited funds on the materials because PFC took responsibility for other instructional supplies.

Preparing for your child’s conference
Our official conference days are 12/5-12/16, and we will have early dismissal on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays during those two weeks so teachers can schedule time to dialogue with parents. Our early dismissal times are:
TK/K 8:15 p.m. to 11:17 daily early friends TK/K 9:36 to 12:38 daily for late friends
1st, 2nd & 3rd grades 7:55 to 12:59 p.m. M, T, TH, F (Wed. pick-up is at 12:29 p.m.)
4th & 5th grades 7:55 to 1:06 p.m. M, T, TH, F (Wed. pick-up is at 12:33 p.m.)

Below I am recycling some tips for preparing and participating in an effective parent teacher conference from the Harvard Family Research Project:
Before the conference checklist
􀀹 Schedule a time to meet. If you can’t go at the scheduled time, ask the teacher about other times.
􀀹 Review your child’s work, grades, and progress to develop questions.
􀀹 Talk with your child about his or her progress in school.
􀀹 Talk with others—family members, after school staff, mentors, etc. (and your child I have to add)—about your child’s strengths and needs.
􀀹 Make a list of questions to ask during the conference.
􀀹 Think about ways you would like to be involved in your child’s learning so that you can discuss them with the teacher.

During the conference- “BE HEARD”
Keep these principles in mind for a great parent–teacher conference:
Best intentions assumed
Emphasis on learning
Home–school collaboration
Examples and evidence
Active listening
Respect for all
Dedication to follow-up

District Community Meetings
Starting this year, in place of the regular LCAP (Local Control & Accountability Plan) presentation at the district Community Meetings, these meetings will be presented as a Speakers Series. Each month, there will be a different outside speaker presenting on a different topic. At the end of each meeting, the community will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on MDUSD schools with Dr. Meyer and this feedback will be used for future LCAP revisions. I will share dates for these meetings as I receive the information and the presentations will also be advertised on Peachjar.

Thanksgiving
To all of you who send your unique learners to Walnut Acres every day to be challenged and encouraged and engaged, thank you for your trust. Thank you as well for your educational passion expressed through PFC Jaguar Fund donations, event participation, and volunteering to help our school become a place in which every child feels empowered and excited about learning. Thank you for believing that our work together is a mission of profound import both on the grand scale of shaping the future and in our seed work of instilling a love of learning and self-confidence in each child. Thank you for showing our children a vision of hope and possibility because in the words of T.S. Eliot, “It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time—for we are bound by that—but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time.”

I wish you and your family a memorable Thanksgiving!
Respectfully,
Colleen Dowd, Principal