Sonoma County Office of Education

Learning Bulletin

This page features stories of school districts or SCOE teams engaged in deep, ongoing work to improve school systems and outcomes for students..


Universal Transitional Kindergarten: Building a New Foundation for the Youngest Learners

Date: 03/07/2022
Author: Eric Wittmershaus, Sonoma County Office of Education

A STEAM workshop at North Bay Children's Center Preschool at Fitch Mountain Elementary in Healdsburg. (Photo by Ryan Kurada)

Educators take part in a STEAM training at the Healdsburg North Bay Children's Center Preschool at Fitch Mountain Elementary School in Healdsburg. (Photo by Ryan Kurada)

 

Ryan Kurada remembers his reaction the first time someone suggested he teach kindergartners.

“Is that the grade where they eat paste out of cans and take naps?” recalled Kurada.

But now, after several years of using project-based learning to educate the youngest schoolchildren, Kurada is part of a team at the Sonoma County Office of Education that is helping teachers prepare for universal transitional kindergarten.

The once skeptical rookie teacher has become an eager evangelist for the benefits of starting public school at age 4 and potentially as early as 3.

Major shift ahead

SCOE’s work comes as California stands on the brink of a generational shift in how our youngest students learn. The state will be phasing in an effort to make every 4-year-old eligible for transitional kindergarten by 2025-26.

SCOE staff who are laying the groundwork for this change say it presents an opportunity to rethink how we educate young children, folding in best practices from a multifaceted early childhood education system and laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

Brulene Zanutto, SCOE’s coordinator of early literacy and school readiness, is leading the TK effort, part of a shift to what is known as a P-3 model of education emphasizing instruction from preschool through third grade. Zanutto said the state’s plan to foster public education beginning at age 4 and eventually age 3 will incorporate successful practices from a complex system that includes approaches ranging from Head Start programs to state-run preschools and daycare settings in private homes.

“The (current) early childhood education system does amazing work, but there are a lot of successful approaches to consider when crafting a TK program,” Zanutto said.

Advocates for children have applauded expanding public education to younger children, which would take early childhood programs that many working families can’t afford and make them part of public schooling, free to all children.

“Having a child in a safe learning environment for free is very attractive to some families,” Zanutto said. Private programs can cost $11,000 a year and even families who can afford that have found that Sonoma County does not have enough available slots for the region’s youngsters.

Refreshing current approaches

As the public education system expands, it presents an opportunity to revisit and refresh current approaches. For example, Zanutto said metric-driven assessments of education, such as standardized testing or graduation rates, can foster too narrow a focus on specific points of students’ educational journeys. A more holistic approach would begin at an early age, as young as 3, and prioritize growth every year of a student’s time in schools.

Zanutto and Kurada each said they hope the value of this approach will become clear over time.

“My hope is that over the next five years, SCOE can really get into that conversation … and help our county to realize that, oh my goodness, if we really focus on these young learners and give them the best start possible, those third grade reading scores and eighth grade math scores are going to get better,” she said.

In order for this expansion of public school to be a success, districts need to do more than just bring 3- and 4-year-olds into current public school settings and expect them to thrive.

Teacher training crucial

Perhaps the biggest adjustment school communities face is in the area of teacher credentialing and training at a time when many districts are contending with teacher shortages at all grade levels. That’s because right now, Zanutto said, early childhood educators and K-12 teachers often follow different career development tracks.

“Teaching a 4-year-old is very different from teaching a 10-year-old,” Zanutto said. “The way our systems are set up … pretty early on, you have to decide, ‘Do I want to teach preschool or elementary school?’”

Currently, you can become an elementary school teacher without having to take a child development course, but such classes are typically foundational for preschool teachers, Zanutto said.

In order to qualify teachers who have received a traditional K-12 training for early childhood education, California’s Legislature has created multiple pathways, including a 24-unit certificate program, a specialized teaching permit for preschool or allowing districts to demonstrate that individual instructors have real-world experience equivalent to the 24 units.

To help ensure enough teachers are able to qualify for early childhood education jobs at a time when there’s a teacher shortage, SCOE is partnering with the North Coast School of Education to develop a low-cost program with the aim of creating a pathway for current credentialed teachers to earn 24 units of early childhood education. The NCSOE of education Beginning Teacher program allows preschool teachers who hold a bachelor’s degree to earn a teaching credential while teaching in a TK classroom, qualifying more teachers faster via a program they can afford.


College and Career Readiness Connects Students to Success

Date: 11/15/2021
Author: Sheldon Reber

Healdsburg Junior High School students work on a Switch electric vehicle.

A new path to help students realize their goals after high school is offered by a team of educators at the Sonoma County Office of Education. With an innovative ethos, College and Career Readiness serves career readiness and career technical education providers with resources, support, and program development expertise so that students gain the skills and confidence to succeed in life.

According to Jessica Progulske, College & Career Readiness lead in SCOE’s Educational Support Services Department, the catalyst for changing the direction of career and technical education was the 2020-21 Youth Truth survey.

“The local Youth Truth survey collected responses from 13,000 students on topics like academic challenges, school culture, and social and emotional needs,” said Progulske.

The feedback pointed to students feeling overwhelmed with a sense of not being ready for college and a career. 

What are the aspects of readiness? “It’s everything from a student’s personal plan for their future that matters to them, to technical support and training, to wraparound social and emotional support that helps them succeed to get to where they’re going,” said Progulske.

To support the change in direction, the recent Sonoma County Portrait of a Graduate initiative included interviews and input from more than 1,000 community members. 

“They identified a half dozen attributes and skills that young people need to master to be ready,” said Chuck Wade, SCOE’s College and Career Readiness Lead. “Somewhat to our surprise, those things didn’t include technical skills. We heard very clearly, even from our largest employers in the county, that they need K-12 educators to focus on developing human qualities in their students like being able to collaborate well, communicate well, to be curious, be empathetic, and have a sense of ethics.”

Progulske points out that the shift from career technical education to college and career readiness doesn’t mean abandoning technical education. 

“Historically in our community and elsewhere there has been an either or path after high school — college or career,” said Progulske. “Even if we are supporting college-bound students well, they will want a career, too. We want to make sure every option is open to each student based on what they want.”

The team is ready to help district administrators make sense of the complexities and challenges of College and Career Readiness, take best advantage of the opportunities for students, and understand the shifts in how funding for the program works. 

“We’ve also developed support for educators and counselors in how to provide relevant learning opportunities for students that incorporate high quality workplace learning experiences,” said Wade. “Sometimes offering these opportunities is logistically challenging for districts as it requires a lot of outreach and connection to community partners — we expect to do a lot of work around that.”

Wade and Progulske look forward to facilitating whole faculty conversations about the pathways educators want to develop for young people that will give them an opportunity to stay in Sonoma County and develop skills that will help them thrive. 

“That’s an important conversation we want to support each district in having and thinking about,” said Wade.

The College and Career Readiness team expects to launch a new website in January which will include support, resources, and videos. For more information contact Chuck Wade at cwade@scoe.org and Jessica Progulske at jprogulske@scoe.org.


Responding to Our Students and Today's Challenges

Date: 08/20/2021
Author:

 

In an ever-changing community that is part of a constantly evolving world we, as educators, are called on to grow, adjust, and be responsive to the needs of the students we serve. 

Wildfires, floods, pandemics, social movements, and a shifting economy have changed the fabric of our community. They have stressed our mental health and resiliency. At the same time, our students are more diverse than ever before, and we are tasked with preparing them for a world that is radically different from the one that existed just 10 years ago. 

During the summer of 2020, as civil unrest rippled across the country, students of color reached out to local educational leaders and asked for a chance for their voices to be heard. When we really began listening, we were saddened by what we heard: Instances of overt and more subtle racism were far too common in our schools, and this had serious consequences. You can read these powerful student statements of subtle and overt discrimination in our schools in the SonomaStudentVoices website, which captures insights from a series of Student Voices Forums held in the Fall of 2020. 

After the forums, SCOE is committed more than ever to supporting equity work among teachers and districts.

Our county’s educational outcome statistics show us that when students feel less engaged in their education, they are often less motivated to do well. This manifests itself in the rates at which students are suspended, expelled, or chronically absent, as well as college-going rates. These numbers, and the students’ own voices, serve as a powerful call to action to do better. 

Schools can and should consider student voices when they develop policies that impact those students. We commend local educators for rising to the occasion to listen to our students when they asked to be heard, and to consider change when they asked for it. Schools may consider offering ethnic studies courses, diversifying their curriculum, creating a student advisory panel, participating in a reading project such as Conversations in Common, 

One such equity effort SCOE is spearheading is increasing teacher diversity in Sonoma County. While Latinx students make up 46 percent of our student body, only 8 percent of teachers represent this group. We know that students are more engaged and do better when they see leaders in the school system who look like them and understand their background. SCOE has launched a teacher diversity full scholarship program to help encourage and expand the opportunities for diverse teaching candidates. Learn more at ncsoe.org

SCOE strongly supports state, county, and school district efforts to promote racial/gender justice, confront bias, and foster tolerance in our school communities. 

We encourage you to use these resources to supplement your own learning and teaching so that our school communities can be a place where all students feel they are welcomed, have their voices heard, and reach their full potential without bias and discrimination. By listening to our students, we can ensure that everyone has the support they need to be healthy, feel welcome, and find success in school.

Learn More and Take Action

  • View a range of suggested actions based on student insights shared during 2020 at sonomastudentvoices.org.
  • Find ways to listen to student perspectives on your campus, such as creating a diverse student advisory board or holding school-based forums featuring student voice
  • SCOE’s Social Justice, Equity, and Anti-racism Resources page offers resources for educators, parents, and community members, carefully curated by a group of equity-minded mental health professionals and educators who work for the Sonoma County Office of Education.
  • Read and share SCOE’s Spotlight on Equity





Responding to Our Students and Today's Challenges

Date: 08/20/2021
Author:

 

In an ever-changing community that is part of a constantly evolving world we, as educators, are called on to grow, adjust, and be responsive to the needs of the students we serve. 

Wildfires, floods, pandemics, social movements, and a shifting economy have changed the fabric of our community. They have stressed our mental health and resiliency. At the same time, our students are more diverse than ever before, and we are tasked with preparing them for a world that is radically different from the one that existed just 10 years ago. 

During the summer of 2020, as civil unrest rippled across the country, students of color reached out to local educational leaders and asked for a chance for their voices to be heard. When we really began listening, we were saddened by what we heard: Instances of overt and more subtle racism were far too common in our schools, and this had serious consequences. You can read these powerful student statements of subtle and overt discrimination in our schools in the SonomaStudentVoices website, which captures insights from a series of Student Voices Forums held in the Fall of 2020. 

After the forums, SCOE is committed more than ever to supporting equity work among teachers and districts.

Our county’s educational outcome statistics show us that when students feel less engaged in their education, they are often less motivated to do well. This manifests itself in the rates at which students are suspended, expelled, or chronically absent, as well as college-going rates. These numbers, and the students’ own voices, serve as a powerful call to action to do better. 

Schools can and should consider student voices when they develop policies that impact those students. We commend local educators for rising to the occasion to listen to our students when they asked to be heard, and to consider change when they asked for it. Schools may consider offering ethnic studies courses, diversifying their curriculum, creating a student advisory panel, participating in a reading project such as Conversations in Common, 

One such equity effort SCOE is spearheading is increasing teacher diversity in Sonoma County. While Latinx students make up 46 percent of our student body, only 8 percent of teachers represent this group. We know that students are more engaged and do better when they see leaders in the school system who look like them and understand their background. SCOE has launched a teacher diversity full scholarship program to help encourage and expand the opportunities for diverse teaching candidates. Learn more at ncsoe.org

SCOE strongly supports state, county, and school district efforts to promote racial/gender justice, confront bias, and foster tolerance in our school communities. 

We encourage you to use these resources to supplement your own learning and teaching so that our school communities can be a place where all students feel they are welcomed, have their voices heard, and reach their full potential without bias and discrimination. By listening to our students, we can ensure that everyone has the support they need to be healthy, feel welcome, and find success in school.

Learn More and Take Action

  • View a range of suggested actions based on student insights shared during 2020 at sonomastudentvoices.org.
  • Find ways to listen to student perspectives on your campus, such as creating a diverse student advisory board or holding school-based forums featuring student voice
  • SCOE’s Social Justice, Equity, and Anti-racism Resources page offers resources for educators, parents, and community members, carefully curated by a group of equity-minded mental health professionals and educators who work for the Sonoma County Office of Education.
  • Read and share SCOE’s Spotlight on Equity





Bridging the gap between distance and in person learning

Date: 02/18/2021
Author: Jamie Hansen, Sonoma County Office of Education

 

“When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history.”

 

—Teresa Thayer Snyder, Retired Superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York in a Facebook post highlighted on a blog by Diane Ravitch

_________________________________

With the prospect of bringing children back to the classroom in the weeks and months ahead, educators are turning their focus to how they will bridge the divide between distance and in-person learning. 

Teachers might feel pressured to make up for lost time and close any learning gaps as soon as possible. We encourage educators to rethink what has typically been referred to as “learning loss.” While there will surely be learning gaps in core content that must be addressed, students have also learned and grown in countless other ways during the pandemic. They have gained technology skills, resiliency, adaptability, to name a few. It is important for educators to find ways to measure, honor and build on this. 

By reframing the issue as “unfinished learning,” educators can turn their focus to what other learning has occurred: What new assets do students bring to the classroom? It also removes the blame from the student or family and acknowledges that learning is not always linear.

Focus on Engagement and Connection Before Content

The return to the classroom will present an opportunity to re-set the tone. It will be a chance to deepen connections with students, build positivity, strengthen student engagement, and rekindle a love of learning.

School and district curriculum leaders should keep the focus on grade-level content and rigor, addressing learning gaps as needed within the context of grade-level work. 

Daily re-engagement of prior knowledge in the context of grade-level assignments will add up over time, resulting in more functional learning than if we resort to watered down instruction or try to reteach topics out of context.

“[A]void the temptation to rush to cover all of the ‘gaps’ in learning from the last school year. The pace required to cover all of this content will mean rushing ahead of many students, leaving them abandoned and discouraged,” wrote the Council of the Great City Schools in “Addressing Unfinished Learning After COVID-19 School Closures” last year. “Moreover, at a time when social-emotional wellbeing, agency, and engagement are more important than ever, instructional haste may eclipse the patient work of building academic character and motivation.”

Three Pillars to Re-Engagement and Addressing Unfinished Learning

Provide grade-level instruction

In mathematics, the focus should be on the “Big Ideas” of the grade level rather than individual standards. This allows for a deeper understanding and building of connection across the standards. A document outlining these Big Ideas will be put out from the state later this spring.

In ELA/literacy instruction, the focus should be on:

  • Learning to Read
  • Close Reading of Complex Text
  • Volume of Reading to Build Knowledge

Teachers should focus on standards that represent these pillars. Student Achievement Partners at achievethecore.org have identified 14 instructional priority standards that represent this. These standards, and guidance on how to address them, can be found at this link

Monitor for evidence of unfinished learning

When monitoring for unfinished learning, it isn’t necessary or recommended to spend too much time testing students with systematic, high-level assessments that don’t always give the most actionable data and may cause students additional stress. The best way to monitor student progress is through authentic classroom tasks. Educators are encouraged to use  formative assessment strategies to help gauge student progress. 

 "Achieve the Core" recommends using assessment in the following ways in order to monitor unfinished learning and identify where extra help is needed. 

  • Use assessment to determine how to bring students into grade-level instruction, not whether to bring them into it.
  • Use assessment to center formative practices (FAST SCASS, 2018). Leverage such sources of information as exit tickets, student work, and student discussions. Use these sources of information to inform instructional choices in connection with high-quality instructional materials. 
  • Use assessment to employ targeted checks for very specific subject and grade-level instructional purposes.

Provide scaffolding and connection when needed

Educators are encouraged not to make assumptions about what students “didn’t get” this year or last year. When there is evidence that a student is unsure, hesitant, or struggling, that is the time to use scaffolding and support at a level that is in proportion to their needs. That is to say, avoid going straight to a massive remediation plan. Students may need just a bit of encouragement, explanation, or to see the material presented in a different way. In the event that a student does need more intensive support, be sure that any intervention or remediation is in addition to grade level content, and does not replace it. 

The goal is to provide “just in time” support as teachers and students work on grade-level content instead of “just in case” remediation. The latter approach has been shown not to work in disaster contexts such as schools in Louisiana coming back after Hurricane Katrina. (Here is a resource that addresses this).

Additional Information and Resources

  • This EdSource article highlights strategies for addressing learning gaps.
  • Read about how the attributes identified in the Sonoma County Portrait of a Graduate are more important than ever during this time of disruption in this blog post by SCOE Director of Innovation and Partnerships, Dan Blake.
  • Education Week: Students Respond to Adult Fixation on Learning Loss: In this article, educator Larry Ferlazzo writes, "If we are going to address the academic loss that may have occurred during the pandemic, then we also need to fully understand the other kinds of loss our young people have experienced and have plans in place to support them through those losses." He asks his students directly how the pandemic has affected them and what they feel they have learned and lost. He shares their insights here.








Districts, SCOE Come Together to Address Distance Learning Challenges

Date: 11/18/2020
Author:

Grades and Social-Emotional Data Serve as a Call to Action

This fall, several Sonoma County superintendents recognized several trends related to staff and student wellbeing that caused great concern. 

First, they began seeing a significant increase in students receiving failing grades, particularly in high school. 

Chart shows that percent of students with failing grades rose from 27 to 37 percent

They also recognized that a large number of teachers were struggling with the stress of distance learning, managing their own families during COVID, and an intense wildfire season. 

Finally, a survey conducted by the nonprofit organization YouthTruth of more than 4,500 Sonoma County high school students found that 71% reported that “feeling anxious about the future” was the number one barrier to distance learning. YouthTruth conducts surveys of high school students across California and the nation, and this finding was unique to Sonoma County. Looking at over 20,000 students across 20 other school systems (in California and across 8 other states) surveyed during the same period, the most frequently cited obstacle from those systems was “distractions at home.” 

While it was no secret that distance learning and COVID-19 presented unparalleled challenges for teachers, families, and students alike, all this information, put together, served as a call to action. Urgent action was clearly needed to support the wellbeing of students and staff as well as to ensure students’ academic success.

Districts, SCOE Join Together to Confront Challenges

Superintendents came together across the high school districts to look at their data and urgently address these problems. At their request, SCOE held a convening over two, four-hour sessions for high school districts to delve into the data, hear different voices, surface bright spots, identify new strategies, and determine substantive next steps. Teams from each district attended, including teachers, counselors, principals, superintendents, and more.

They heard from students about the pressures they were facing at home and the obstacles to learning remotely (see the video highlighted below). They reviewed county-wide grade data and received a report from YouthTruth about student engagement and wellbeing. 

Surfacing Bright Spots

The second day of the convening focused on surfacing bright spots and learning from those who were seeing success in distance learning. 

At Rancho Cotate High School, fewer students are receiving F’s this year, in contrast to the overall county trend. Principal Louis Ganzler described his school’s “3x3” approach to scheduling, where students take just three classes each semester, for a total of six over the course of the year. Fewer courses at one time have allowed students and teachers to develop closer relationships over distance learning and has mitigated the sense of overwhelm that many students and staff are experiencing. 

“We're covering the same material at the end of the year, a student (still) has six classes on their transcript, but we are seeing that it has taken an enormous amount of pressure off both students and teachers,” he said. 

Brandy Raymond, Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator at Roseland Charter, shared how her district has built on the strength of teacher relationships with students and focused its efforts on parent and student outreach. This includes giving teachers time each afternoon to call and text families of students who missed class that day.

We have an hour in the afternoon each day where teachers are reaching out to students through student support and parent communication time,” she shared. “ If students didn't show up to a class, their teachers are on the phone, they are texting them, they are emailing them. they're calling families and they're just relentless to get them to attend those zoom meetings.”

Planning Next Steps

To translate the convening into meaningful action, participants came together as district teams and in job-alike groups across school districts to discuss short-term, mid-term, and long-term next steps.

While this first event focused on high school, everyone acknowledged that these critical issues exist at the elementary and middle school levels as well. SCOE will be hosting two separate summits for elementary and middle schools in early 2020. 

“These convenings, where district teams came together to address common challenges, was a very inspiring first step,” said Dr. Jennie Snyder, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction at SCOE. “This is an opportunity for districts to learn from each other and with each other as they work to improve student experiences during the pandemic and into the future. We look forward to working alongside them as they take their next steps in this endeavor.” 

These gatherings represent a remarkable coming together of school leaders and educators across Sonoma County to address these urgent challenges for the sake of our children. 

“We thank the school leaders who brought this forward for their vision and commitment to Sonoma County young people,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools. “We look forward to working alongside educators across the county to address these unprecedented challenges.”



Initiatives for Change

Date: 09/16/2020
Author: Jamie Hansen

Today we are facing a two-fold national crisis: The Covid-19 pandemic and the call for social justice. Our students are at the forefront of experiencing the impact of both crises. Covid-19 has forced education to convert traditional classroom teaching to social distance learning. This change has brought to light the disparity among marginalized and disadvantaged students. At the same time, tragic events have led to a civil discourse for social justice and equality. This has opened the conversation on how to change the future of education for students of color. As a result, many local educators have already begun to team up to make change across our school districts.

 

In this month’s Learning Bulletin, SCOE is highlighting educational initiatives that are tackling some of these issues. Read on to learn more and find ways to get involved in addressing equity in distance learning.



CARE Collective

 

The CARE Collective, led by SCOE’s Educational Support Services team, strives to bring educators together to share and build knowledge related to how to support students and their families during distance learning and COVID-19. Focused on equity, the Collective will address three key interrelated areas: physical safety, emotional connection, and academic learning. In order to ensure that ALL families survive and thrive, the CARE Collective unites the resources, knowledge, and cultural assets of community leaders and organizations. Educators and adults working in schools are invited to register. The first virtual gatherings are happening soon. Learn more and sign up to participate at scoe.org/carecollective.

 

Student Voices on Racism, Equity, and Social Justice 

 

A series of forums called Student Voices on Racism, Equity, and Social Justice is meant to provide students of color the chance to speak directly to school leaders to share their experiences and ideas on making schools more equitable. Hosted by SCOE, these forums are designed to help school leaders learn directly from those they are serving. The first event, the Black Student Voices forum, took place Tuesday, Sept. 15. Subsequent forums this fall will feature the voices of Latinx, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Indigenous students. Learn more and register at scoe.org/classes.

 

Conversations in Common: A Collaborative Diversity & Inclusion Reading Project

Led by superintendents at Harmony and Forestville school districts as well as librarians and educators from across the county, this project is a synchronized, community-wide, book reading program focused on diversity, inclusion, and social justice narratives. A different text will be selected for different age ranges. A central goal of the project is to elevate the capacity of our schools, families, and communities, to engage in conversations of this nature. To receive further information about this project, please sign-up at bit.ly/ConversationsInCommon.

 

Equity in Education Initiative

 

The Equity in Education Initiative is made of representatives from a range of nonprofits, educational, and governmental organizations working together to foster equity for students. The initiative seeks to provide tools and information to help the community bring about meaningful change. This is centered on the idea that, with a greater understanding of how the system operates educators, students, and families can better advocate for equity in policymaking. Effective change starts with active listening. By opening doors, hosting forums, and seeking out marginalized voices, the EIEI initiative seeks to provide participants with an understanding of kids’ real experience in the education system and learn what ideas and programs are needed to target inequities and roadblocks.

..

 

Additional information and resources, including tools for understanding racism and bias at a personal level as well as in the classroom, are available at scoe.org/socialjustice

 


Piner-Olivet Charter School focuses on academic achievement of student subgroups

Date: 01/21/2020
Author: Sheldon Reber

Exploring the academic data points of female English learner Latinx students was a focus of the Piner-Olivet Charter School team that convened at the Rooster Fellowship held in Healdsburg on Jan. 17. The team is part of the Rooster Fellowship’s Strand B: Behavior vs. Equity in Discipline. The Rooster Fellowship is made up of 37 participants from Sonoma County schools and is facilitated by Educational Services Support staff from SCOE.

Rooster Fellowship 3

 

The five-member Piner-Olivet Charter School team included Kirsten Sanft, principal; Allison Meyer, English and social studies teacher; Bryan Bautista, bilingual program assistant; Aracely Romo-Flores, SCOE director of continuous improvement; and Carmen Diaz-French, superintendent.

The school team is exploring ways to better engage these students and increase their academic achievement, said Diaz-French. “This work today will lead to changes in terms of having a broader focus at our school on why seventh and eighth-grade Latinx females are one of our subgroups that need the most growth.”

Cultural questions were discussed during the meeting such as the role Latinx parents and community play in their expectations that school should be a more traditional experience for their students. This was a data point the team wanted to research further and find out if it is true: Whether Latinx parents feel school is where students received direct instruction in rows and individual desks versus some of the innovative, future-focused classrooms that feature flexible seating, collaboration, and project-based learning.

“In addition, Kirsten Sanft, the principal, and the school site have already been doing a lot of work around restorative practices,” remarked Diaz-French. “The Rooster Fellowship helped focus the conversations we can have in our parent meetings where we talk about classroom expectations, academic achievement, and share data about their students.”

This can be very important work but only when you start seeing the statistically significant data, patterns, and trends said Diaz-French.

“With the work we’re doing today with the Rooster Fellowship, I see the potential for significant change in equity for our students,” added Diaz-French. “In this group, we’re really able to dial in and it gives us the time to reflect and ask the critical questions that we may not have time for at school. It will really help us gear up for success in meeting the specific academic needs of our subgroups, such as seventh and eighth-grade Latinx female students.”


Rooster Fellowship connects local educators to data-driven ideas

Date: 12/13/2019
Author: Sheldon Reber

A group of 20 educators from the SCOE Rooster Fellowship gathered on Dec. 4 at Santa Rosa’s CoLab to participate in a presentation from Steve McCammon, Ed.D., president of The Schlechty Center in Louisville, Kentucky. McCammon shared data-driven ideas on designing purposeful classroom instruction to increase student engagement.

Rooster Fellowship connects local educators to data-driven ideas

McCammon remarked during his presentation, “We unlock content areas for students when we design curriculum for them using a data-driven process.”

Mayra Sosa, family engagement facilitator at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa, was there with five of her school colleagues. Sosa connects English learner students and families to community resources and helps students with their college and career choices.

The Rooster Fellowship goal for 11/12-grade English learners at Elsie Allen is to achieve a higher median score on the student survey question “what we worked on today in class is important to me.”

“My focus is on students who are chronically absent,” she noted. “We have students who come from very traumatic experiences, they want to learn, they want to be at school, but they have many barriers.”

Sosa observes that for her students the social and emotional aspects of their lives “is what’s really big for them. School is a place that students say they can get their food for the day. It isn’t just a place where they learn and get their credits for graduation. For many students it’s a safe place.”

“The thing I like about the Rooster Fellowship,” continued Sosa, “is learning about new systems of student engagement. We work with data and can see how and why students react to changes.” The goal of this is to find ways for students to become more engaged and help chronically absent students overcome barriers that prevent them from attending school.

Sosa participated recently in a classroom circle with her EL students “and when we talked they said we don’t want to do ‘quick writes’ all the time because they come from another class where most of the class is writing.”

Sosa’s students told the teacher they wanted to do more interactive learning. “The teacher implemented a couple of changes and she reduced the ‘quick writes’ and added some other components so now we’re seeing they are more engaged,” said Sosa. “We’ll look back at our student surveys and analyze the data. I feel that’s the difference in how to increase student achievement.”


Rooster Fellowship looks at ways to improve student achievement

Date: 11/20/2019
Author: Sheldon Reber

Checking assumptions about students, reflecting on classroom situations and using data to inform decisions is a focus of the Rooster Fellowship, a group of nine school teams from Sonoma County schools. School teams met in Healdsburg on Nov. 15 to share observations and discuss new ways to engage students.

The Rooster Fellowship, a SCOE initiative, looks at ways to increase student achievement through data and proven practices such as student empathy interviews. The teams, usually four or five educators, are made up of district administrators, principals, teachers, and classified employees. Participants reported that many times one small change in instruction, introduced at a Rooster Fellowship meeting, can have a large impact on student achievement.

Lindsay Misakian, a sixth grade teacher at Miwok Valley Elementary Charter School in the Old Adobe Union School District, uses Rooster Fellowship practices to change the way she teaches math.

“We conducted student empathy interviews,” said Misakian. “The students mostly said they were excited and engaged during science but less interested in math. To me that seemed like a pretty fair response that I had observed myself.”

“Our curriculum is very focused on teamwork and students are expected to be a part of a four-person team,” noted Misakian. “They cared about choice so we decided to give them a choice of groups when they worked on a lesson.”

Misakian continued “The first day felt a little chaotic to me with students choosing their own groups. Some students chose to work alone, some students chose to work in pairs, and some students chose to work in teams. I saw students who needed help congregate together and I could get to them more quickly. The students who had a high level of ability in math felt happier because they were able to go at their own pace, finish early and get started on their homework.”

Mikasian remarked that the feelings around math have really shifted in her classroom which she credits to the strategies learned from the Rooster Fellowship. “I’m seeing a lot of positive shifts among my students across all demographics and ability levels in math thanks to this process.”