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Good afternoon Parents and Community Partners,
About a month ago, a budding young reporter from Elk Grove Elementary School emailed me requesting an interview for her school’s newspaper, the Soaring Eagle. Intrigued, I followed up with this promising journalist and responded to her questions. She asked about my favorite sports, past times and school subject, which were fairly easy to answer. One question was particularly insightful. She asked, “What makes a good teacher? “ And her follow-up question was, “What makes a good student?”
I shared with Ms. Wangsgard that a great teacher is caring, dedicated, flexible, really smart and committed to continuous self-improvement. On every campus I visit, I see great teachers. Teachers who rally together to help a family in need, teachers who adjust to new curriculum not because they have to, but because this is their profession and teachers who take complicated concepts and break them into bite size, digestible pieces. With more funds available for professional learning, I often talk to teachers excited about learning a new method to create more of those “Ah-ha!” moments.
For her student question, I expressed that a great student is one that gives his/her best effort every day. I attended several events this spring including National Honor Society induction ceremonies, academic achievement awards and academic competitions like the state level Future Business Leaders of America. In each case, I clearly witnessed students giving their best.
If you’d like to read Ms. Wangsgard’s entire article, you can subscribe to our eguNews where we’ve reprinted her article. Thank you Julia and her teacher, Ms. Cody!
As the year quickly comes to an end, I’d like to recognize our teachers, staff and administrators who’ve worked tirelessly implementing several new programs, initiatives and services—all with the aim of providing our students, your children, with a high quality education by giving them the tools, skills and knowledge to be college and career ready.
The Common Core State Standards curriculum is being implemented across the District. This work focuses on problem solving, communication and teamwork –a challenge for students and staff alike. This new curriculum will help foster a caring, participative and skilled cadre of students and future citizens. We’re proud of our home grown talent and we often send our kids away to postsecondary institutions with the hope that they come back to help keep Elk Grove a strong and vibrant community.
With the implementation of Common Core, our natural next step will be building Linked Learning, an innovative approach to making learning applicable. Linked Learning continues to gain traction and support throughout California, especially from our community and business partners who need employees with critical thinking skills, creativity, and who can communicate and work as a team to solve problems.
Less observed, but felt is the climate on all campuses. Improvements to our truancy rates have been made with more engaged students and positive attitudes. The regional implementation of a systemic approach to creating this positive culture in our schools where the standards of being safe, responsible, and respectful are more than words is spreading with professional development for teachers and staff as well as improved discipline practices. Speaking of great environments, we will be opening Marion Mix this fall, a new two-story elementary school in the Laguna Creek region and C.W. Dillard will celebrate its 100th birthday with a facelift that any celebrity would envy. As we work to provide enhanced learning environments, we’re also excited about our growth and plan to add as many as 50 more school sites.
This time of year is replete with tests and assessments. In March, students in grades three through eight and grade eleven began taking the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress summative assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics in the first statewide administration of new, online tests to replace the paper-based, multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The state’s new assessment system represents the next step in California’s plan for providing high-quality teaching and learning in every school, including higher academic standards, more decision-making in the hands of schools and communities, and more resources dedicated to schools and to students with the greatest needs.
While it’s perfectly understandable to want to compare the former test with the new one, each test measures different skill sets, so I wouldn’t recommend comparing the results of the new assessments with the prior STAR exams. The SBAC test scores from this year create a new baseline year for our students and staff. At the District level, we shared with the Parent Advisory Committee what the SBAC Report to parents will look like and how to read and interpret their students’ results once parents begin receiving their student’s SBAC scores. The new tests represent an academic check-up, allowing students to demonstrate their ability to write analytically, think critically and solve problems along with their knowledge of facts. The parents from that committee expressed concern about the detail of the state report and requested that we share their concerns with the state.
To wrap up the year, after close to five years of economic woes, we’re back in the growth business. We’ve negotiated two-year contracts with most of our employees and expect to complete agreements with the remaining groups soon. We’ve received budget direction and priorities from our Board and will seek feedback from our community over the next few weeks. We look forward to the work of implementing this direction. This work will include reviving programs like summer school and expanding proven programs like GATE, AVID and Career Academies.
As we plan for the next school year, we’re looking into new and innovative approaches to constantly improve and enhance the education we provide for your children. In March, we held a well-attended career fair where we sought the best and the brightest teachers and support staff from Elk Grove and surrounding communities. Knowing that our community is very diverse multi-culturally, in thought and in creativity, I have been a staunch supporter for having teachers, staff, and leaders in our schools who mirror that diversity and we will continue to work hard to attract the very best people we can find to serve your children.
Please enjoy the wide range of exciting activities going on across the district this spring and have a great summer!