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..

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.”

EL Shadowing for Equity

Date: 11/13/2019
Author: Jamie Hansen

A new initiative to improve equitable outcomes for English learners centers on the idea that when educators understand the educational experiences of English learners they are better equipped to make informed choices about the intentional changes needed to meet their needs.

RISE Collaborative

This new initiative, organized by SCOE, is called the RISE Collaborative or Reimagining Instructional Shifts for English Learners. It includes carefully built teams from four elementary schools: La Tercera, James Monroe, Binkley, and Mark West. Each team consists of representatives from across the school system, including: school administrators, district administrators, teachers, coaches, and more. The four teams are each supported by a SCOE coach leading the work, Jenn Guerrero, EL program coordinator, Kelly Matteri, coordinator for ELA/HSS/UDL, and Aracely Romo-Flores, director for continuous improvement.

The initiative is focused on elementary schools because these strategies, when applied early, can help stop the creation of long-term English learners. 

In October, each team member spent time “shadowing” an English learner within their school to gain insight into how students were engaging and what teaching strategies might help them become more engaged. They began by looking at the student’s profile, including how long they’ve been at the school site, how long they’ve been in the United States, their ELPAC and CAASPP scores, grades, and more. Then, they spent two hours closely observing the student in class. Neither the student nor teacher knew who was being observed so as to not affect their behavior.Binkley English Learner Coordinator Lauren Ridgway said the effort is “all about opening up the classroom so that we can learn from each other. When we focus on what students are actually doing and experiencing, we can shift our instruction to better serve them.”

Often, it’s found that English learners spend the majority of their school day listening to language, rather than producing language, said Guerrero. The goal of shadowing is to see what the student is experiencing day in and day out, and to then take action to disrupt the silence. Shadowing in itself can be very powerful and can create urgency, but without deliberate next steps the observations may not lead to change.

The teams are engaging in a continuous improvement process based on their observations throughout the course of the year. They have selected a strategy and created a plan-do-study-act approach to implementing the strategy at their school site. At the next meeting, they will look at data and make changes based on what has worked and what hasn’t.

“Each team is crafting intentional shifts in their instructional practice in an effort to increase student engagement. At Binkley Elementary in Rincon Valley Union School District, the team’s goal is to increase English learner engagement. In the process, they hope that their students will also begin using more oral, academic English during the school day.

“The evidence we gained from the shadowing was that students were not getting enough opportunities to practice their spoken English skills,” said Binkley Elementary Principal Hilary Kjaer. “Based on that, we are looking at how we can each go back and make a shift in our own practices to provide students with more opportunities.”

Rachel Valenzuela, assistant superintendent of educational services at Mark West Union School District, said that the first round of EL Shadowing was very motivating for their team.

“I felt the urgency behind needing to address the needs of our EL students,” said Valenzuela. “We know that there is still a wide achievement gap for these students, and the RISE Collaborative is helping us see what we can do to turn things around.”