The News Gallery
September 2004TAKING NOTE - State Superintendent Jack O'Connell Admires Migrant Ed Summer Program
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
Contributors to this issue:
Darlynn Billingsley, Christine Chapman, Rich Graham, Garyalynn Wilhelm, Donna Orozco, Steve Woods, Glenn Williams, Elainea Scott, Adam Valencia, Cindy Lopez, Anna León, and E. Sheli Silva.
The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. If you would like to receive the News Gallery, please contact Christine Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.
State Superintendent Visits Successful Migrant Education Program
One of Migrant Education's annual summer school programs seems to have taken its inspiration from Step Up to Writing curriculum utilized in 60 classrooms this year. The curriculum employs a traffic signal to teach students effective writing methods. A green light instructs students to write a topic sentence; a yellow light tells them to slow down and compose details. A red light warns young writers to give examples that support their details. The red light is followed by another green light which tells the student to remind the reader of the topic sentence. Migrant administrators took this teaching strategy to heart.
Green Light - Go! Migrant Program Coordinator, Irene Barba, first learned of Step Up to Writing through her work with Tulare City Elementary schools. Ms. Barba shared some amazing statistical improvements Tulare students made in writing, as measured by pre-instruction and post-instruction samples. Program Manager Anna León and Ms. Barba got the green light from Migrant Administrator E. Sheli Silva to utilize the curriculum in the Migrant summer program. Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak said of their plans: "We have no time to waste with students who are performing below their grade level. The Migrant summer programs provide that window of opportunity to increase literacy skills of underperforming students before they rejoin their classmates in the fall."
Slow Down! When Migrant staff became aware of Step Up to Writing in 2002, they worked hard to plan its implementation — training teachers, obtaining funding and teaching students. To begin with, a small group of teachers received basic training in Step Up to Writing in the spring of 2003.
Migrant's summer program is called an Intensive Literacy Group (ILG). The ILG program pairs 10 students, who have been identified by their teachers as being at least one year behind in reading, with one teacher (four hours per day) for 20 days of instruction. Through the Step Up to Writing curriculum, students learn how to organize their thoughts, arrange the order of their supporting details and examples, and effectively use transitional words or phrases to create a coherent paragraph. Teachers give writing prompts that center on everyday topics. Anna León adds: "One of the most important benefits of the Step Up to Writing approach is the common instruction for reading and writing that develops in a school where teachers use these strategies. We work with a mobile population of students. By training those teachers, our goal is for migrant students to hear the same instruction wherever they go."
Based on the success of the summer sessions in 2003, Sheli Silva and Anna León made an ambitious plan: train more teachers! Ms. Silva explains: "We were successful in learning the curriculum's foundation in 2003, but we needed more training. Through our efforts earlier this year, each teacher working in the Tulare and Kings Counties Migrant Education Region VIII received training in Step Up to Writing. We trained 600 teachers who worked with migrant students in three, two-day sessions, which began in January, 2003!"
Red Light - Stop! After a successful summer session in 2003, Migrant administrators paused to remind supporters and colleagues of the importance of the program. "Last fall, I shared with State Superintendent of Public Instruction some of the pre- and post-instruction writing samples of our migrant students in the Summer 2003 program." says Ms. Silva. "At the time, we were seeking the California Department of Education's support for our teacher training program. Mr. O'Connell was very impressed by the improvement in student writing with just three to four weeks of intensive instruction." The writing samples Ms. Silva shared with Superintendent O'Connell measured achievement in reading against the state rubric. As a group, Migrant students grew an average of three reading levels on the state's Developmental Reading Assessment in 2003. As Ms. León notes: "Reading and writing are so closely linked that improvement in one will invariably show an improvement in the other."
Around the same time, Migrant administrators submitted an application to speak at the National Migrant Education Conference. The application was accepted and in May of this year, Migrant staff including Sheli Silva, Anna León, Irene Barba, Joe Calvo, Hope DeLeon and assistant superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Pansy Ceballos traveled to San Antonio to share the promising results of the ILG classes utilizing Step Up to Writing.
Green Light Go! In June, the program Superintendent O'Connell visited was well into its second successful year. While Ms. León is currently analyzing the data from this summer season, she can report that the majority of students have grown one rubric, thus meeting the program's objective. Migrant administrators plan to share their complete analysis of the summer 2004 program with Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak and the Tulare County Board of Education this fall. "It has been an incredible journey from the time we first learned of Step Up to Writing. I appreciate the support of Mr. Vidak throughout the training and instruction periods, and the wonderful recognition we've received from the California Department of Education and our peers in the field of Migrant Education," concludes Anna León.
~ State Superintendent Jack O'Connell observes students in Shantall Porchia's class along with Clare Gist, Director II of Funded Programs at Tulare City Elementary School District.
~ Terry Sayre uses the recent Cassini-Huygens space telescope's exciting mission to Saturn to inspire students in their writing.
~ Liliana Nieto demonstrates her sentence structure in Ms. Shantall Porchia's summer class (below).
Special Services & Business Services Complete Three-Year, Eight Million Dollar Project
Locally, students with special needs are beginning to benefit from Proposition 47 — the $13.1 billion school improvement bond approved by California voters in November 2002. Last month, the Special Services Division completed the last of 22 Special Day Class buildings funded by the proposition. The buildings have been constructed on 19 different district campuses — both high school and elementary school sites. The project, which cost nearly $8.2 million, took over three years to plan and construct.
"Projects of this complexity are often planned years before funding is even available," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "As the county has grown, so has the number of children with special needs. We recognized years ago that we needed to take steps to accommodate this growth and future increases."
Dr. Michael Stephens, administrator for Severely Handicapped Services, says of the project's history: "The last time we had a similar building project was in 1997. With this project, we had the opportunity to update our Special Day Class design, particularly in the area of technology and student mobility. Now that the buildings are complete, we'll be able to give some parents of students with severe handicaps the choice between a traditional center and a Special Day Class setting on a campus among typically developing peers." Dr. Stephens adds: "The construction also afforded us the opportunity to reduce teacher/student ratios, particularly for students with special medical needs."
Rich Graham, administrator for General Services, oversaw the project's construction with a team that included a representative from architects Mangini Associates, a state-certified inspector and a representative from the contractor, Oral Micham. "Some of the challenges we faced were integrating our new buildings with existing utilities and the district's network and communications systems. We also sought — as much as possible — to anticipate future expansion," says Mr. Graham. While the buildings are owned by the Tulare County Office of Education, they sit on land leased from the individual districts. "The teachers, district personnel and superintendents have been delighted with the buildings and the work done by our team including Kevin Matteson, network services manager from our Information Systems department. The buildings will be a fine learning environment for some very special students," concludes Rich Graham.
~ Special Day Class building at Liberty Elementary is ready for students.
~ Architect Allen Evans inspects the Lindsay facility.
~ General Services administrator Rich Graham (left) reviews construction schedules at weekly meeting with inspector Kirk Purcaro.
Reconnecting Youth Completes First Full Year of Grant
Connections are being made at Reconnecting Youth. Some of them are new and some of them might be called "repairs." The semester-long course helps students develop interpersonal, cognitive and emotional skills. Students are learning — and sometimes relearning — how to build positive connections with parents, their peers and teachers, through training in decision making, personal control and self-esteem.
Reconnecting Youth (RY) is a prevention program that targets young people in grades 9 through 12 who show signs of poor school achievement and the potential of becoming a high school dropout. The program, which was initially offered at Tulare County Office of Education's La Sierra High School, several court community schools, and at continuation high schools in Exeter, Woodlake and Yettem, will grow this fall to approximately 20 classes at continuation and comprehensive high schools throughout Tulare County. RY is coordinated by Adam Valencia from CHOICES, the youth development and prevention office that includes Friday Night Live.
RY has been funded by a grant received in fall 2002. The grant stipulated that a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)-approved program for intervention be implemented. The RY curriculum, developed by the University of Washington, was selected for its proven results. Students must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the program. Some of the criteria include: 25% or more absences; a deficit in credits earned based on grade level; 2.3 or lower grade point average; and a history of drug use and drop outs. To ensure its effectiveness, Reconnecting Youth limits its classes to one group leader and approximately 12 students.
"Reconnecting Youth classes begin with a personal survey," says Program Coordinator Adam Valencia. "We ask students about a variety of things, including questions about their home life. After a few weeks, we ask them about their drug use. We get a truer indication of the drugs they may be using after some trust has been established. From these surveys, we see students begin to open up, and then the barriers start to come down." In May, Valencia completed a grant report which noted decreases in student drinking and drug use along with increases in academic performance and emotional control.
The RY staff also works beyond the curriculum to include numerous special events designed to improve the student's life skills — such as interviewing, writing, career planning, and cultural appreciation. "The RY experience for Tulare County students is much richer because it applies the curriculum in ways that benefit the students after high school" says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. RY students have had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL) Night in Visalia, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and performances by the TCOE Theatre Company.
~ Students from La Sierra/Porterville at COOL Night.
~ RY Program Coordinator Adam Valencia.
~ Folklorico Dancers at the Diverse Grounds event in Mooney Grove Park.
ERSportal Accesses Multiple Resources Including New Digital Curriculum
Imagine you've stepped into a courtyard. Before you are several closed doors — each one with a different lock. You fumble with your keys to open them. Now image you've stepped into the same courtyard and all the doors are open. Through them are libraries full of information and research assistants waiting to help you. It's an inviting place you'll want to visit again and again.
This month, Educational Resource Services (ERS) will introduce ERSportal — a kind of online courtyard full of open doors for teachers seeking resources for their classrooms. In technical terms, ERSportal is a digital Content Management System. Once teachers log in, they will be passed through to ERS's many online resources — the media catalog, the award-winning research database eLibrary, the popular Standards Resource Guide, the new educational streaming video from Digital Curriculum, and a growing list of informational websites designed to help educational professionals and administrators.
"Our goal in designing ERSportal was to eliminate any frustration in logging in and out of all of the valuable online resources," says ERS Program Manager Elainea Scott. "The task of trying to recall a particular username and password will become a thing of the past."
Upon logging in, teachers will find the site tailored to the school district they work in, including district logos and color schemes. ERSportal will also allow users to further customize their online portal. For example, they may create a personalized section on special education, technology, mathematics, or on their own specialized area of expertise, and add links to the resources most important to them. A customized bookmark section allows teachers to access their favorite websites — wherever they go — and from most any computer. The hardware that supports ERSportal and potentially thousands of personalized webpages for educators in Tulare and Kings Counties was funded by the California Technology Assistance Project (CTAP). Instructional Consultant Glenn Williams is CTAP's liaison for Tulare County.
Once inside the ERSportal, teachers will notice a new resource called DigitalCurriculum. The resource is an on-demand teaching system that integrates full-length videos and video clips, still images, Encyclopaedia Britannica content, teacher guides, lesson plans, and interactive assessments and assignments. "One of the great advantages to DigitalCurriculum," says Ms. Scott, "is that teachers can download resources rather quickly. This is particularly important to our geographically isolated districts." The DigitalCurriculum resource library contains more than 90,000 multimedia components, which are correlated to every K-12 subject, state and national standard.
"ERS's online resources continue to grow and improve as part of our commitment to support Tulare County schools," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The ERS staff is keenly focused on delivering the best resources while, at the same time, listening to the needs of teachers and resource personnel."
~ Technology Development Assistant Steve Woods demonstrates the features of the new ERSportal for teachers from Outside Creek Elementary. Each school subscribing to the service will log into a page custom-designed for their school districts.
Tom Byars, superintendent of Sunnyside Union Elementary School District in Strathmore since 1994, has been named program manager for CHOICES, the prevention and youth development program in the Instructional Services Division. Mr. Byars was involved in the formation of the Gang Reduction Intervention Program (GRIP), for his district. The program was funded by the California Department of Education beginning in 1998.
The Collaborative Leadership Institute (CLI) recently selected its second cohort for the 18-month program. The purpose of CLI is to ensure the continuing vitality of child services providers in Tulare County by identifying and developing emerging leaders. CLI is a project of the Tulare County Office of Education funded by First 5 Tulare County. Members of the cohort from the Tulare County Office of Education include Child Care staff members Elvira Barron and Tina Sandoval. In total, 14 youth service agencies participate.
The Child Care Program recently received a $150,000 grant from First 5 of Tulare County to help Head Start children that have disabilities. The grant will help fund the Childcare Disability Assessment and Service Program (CDASP) utilizing a Head Start certification specialist and a disabilities technician. The purpose is to assess and serve children that do not meet school district special education eligibilty criteria but do meet Head Start disability criteria.
~ Tom Byars, Proram Manager for CHOICES
Tim A. Hire, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
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