Preparing our youth to be college, career, and community ready

Our democracy has a major crisis.  The spirit of working together to solve our most pressing problems has been colored by economic self-interest. We need to reinvigorate our public schools with to prepare youth both for democracy broadly and to promote their commitment and capacity to help support societal improvement in their communities and beyond.  


For the engagement of our youth and for the health of our democracy, our schools need to turn their attention to their civic mission.  In other words, we must prepare students to be not just "college and career ready" but "college, career, and community ready."


When I think about the concept, it brings to mind students who are informed and supported to interact and influence the structures that govern them. It brings to mind students who are prepared to raise their voice on issues that impact their lives and to understand how those voices can be felt by those in power, in government, within schools and community.


Often, with good intention, civic education involves a small segment of our student population, typically those on the "leadership track", or those in affluent communities from more highly-resourced schools. The unintended consequence of these practices, often deeply steeped in school tradition and culture, is the continued alienation of poor students, students of color and “at-risk” student populations.  It is our responsibility as educators and leaders to support all youth to bring their unique skills, experiences, and voice -- so that they can have an active role in the structures that govern them.  Our schools and communities benefit greatly from this kind of engagement.


When provided with opportunities to connect classroom learning with authentic learning experiences (moving beyond mock trials and mock elections), students are more engaged and retain more of what they learned. Students who are “community ready” have an understanding of the institutional structures that impact their lives as well as a sense of their own agency in addressing them.  


ACOE's Youth Participatory Action Research program and Oakland's Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age initiative are just two examples of how this can be accomplished, bridging the divide between classroom instruction, student empowerment, and community life.  Each of these approaches connect the classroom to an accessible, authentic type of civic engagement for students. One need only think of the incredible “civics lesson” learned by students in the civil rights movement; translate that to today’s young leaders in Ferguson MO, and here at home in the Bay Area where students are using skills they’ve learned to make a difference in their schools and communities today.


When we provide students with opportunities to discuss things that matter to them, to learn how laws that affect them are put into place, to understand the systems that govern their lives in ways that make meaning, are engaging, and to the extent possible, engage them in action - we are doing our jobs as educators and adult leaders preparing the next generation.



L. Karen Monroe
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools

Honoring the Leaders in our Classrooms for Day of the Teacher

In this important time of change and growth, the Alameda County Office of Education recognizes the essential leadership of teachers in our schools. Teachers are at the heart of our work towards positive change in schools as they lead their classrooms each day. They embody the courage needed for this transformation as they light the way for all students. 

As County Superintendent of Schools, I express my gratitude to all our ACOE teachers serving the Juvenile Court and Community Schools, Quest, and School Age Parent and Infant Programs. Thank you for your continued dedication to serving the diverse students attending our County schools. 

It takes an exceptional level of skill and commitment to help guide and support our students in the midst of the shifts in education currently underway, and you take on this challenge without hesitation. 

I am proud to congratulate this year's ACOE Teacher of the Year, Christine Rominiecki. Christine, a teacher at Butler Academic Center, is known for her passion for teaching and willingness to go out of her way to help her students. Thank you, Christine, for being an inspiration in your classroom. 

Today, and every day, we honor and cherish the difference our teachers make for our students, their families, and our community. 

Sincerely, 

Sheila Jordan
Alameda County Superintendent

Honoring Cesar Chavez through Service and Community

A number of our districts take the 31st of  March off in honor of Cesar Chavez.  We work as usual... but I hope we can take a minute this week to pay tribute to this important leader.
 Chavez gained a reputation  for his leadership in the struggle for fair wages and working conditions for Latino migrant workers. Many of us remember the great struggles and his pioneer efforts through boycotts of grapes to successfully form the first trade union to represent, primarily, Latino field workers. His name and works are linked to service learning, civic engagement and a commitment to equitable education for Latino students.
 
The ACOE Butterfly Sculpture: 
An Enduring Symbol of Strength and Solidarity
In 2005, we worked to build a meaningful public art sculpture outside the ACOE building.  The project partnered  students attending our alternative education programs with members of The Crucible, a collective of metal-working artists. Together, they conceived and constructed a multi-media butterfly to symbolize the emerging leadership of all students. The butterfly sculpture is set in a bed of grape leaves as a tribute to the struggles of the farmworkers.
The piece stands as an enduring testament to service and community and we thank and honor our board, the artists  and staff led by Louise Music who volunteered after hours to work and support our students in the initial creation.  
A special thanks to  Evan Goldberg, our coordinator who has worked closely over the years on service learning projects with the Chavez Foundation to write a tribute celebrating the day. Please take a minute to read it.  Please also take some time to review some of the excellent resources available about Cesar Chavez and Service learning on our website.

-Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools


We were honored to be joined at the dedication of the butterfly sculpture by Dolores Huerta, compadre and second in line to Cesar along with local labor leaders. Next time you visit ACOE, enjoy the butterfly sculpture close up, and appreciate the work our gardener Forrest Bloxham puts into creating California native foliage.

Setting a New Foundation for Business - School Partnerships (Special to the Oakland Business Review)

We are entering a new era of public education.  With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments,  a new approach to teaching, learning and assessment is primed to narrow the skills gap between the completion of high school and the start of success in college and career.  These changes provide new opportunities to re-engage the business community to work in partnership with schools by helping student improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills. While there are many possible ways for schools and businesses to work together successfully, work experience programs and technical assistance are particularly beneficial in today’s environment. We all have a stake in ensuring that students have a quality education that prepares them to become the leaders of tomorrow.
 
New programs and organizational models are needed to promote alignment and collaboration to support students’ transition from school to college and career.  The business community has much to offer in providing technical expertise in the development of school programs, academies and in teacher training, particularly in the areas of math and science. The need for robust programs is particularly salient here in the Bay Area as an emerging center for science innovation and new tech start-ups.  Teachers are preparing to deliver information in new, more creative and engaging ways and schools will be primed to take on collaborative partnerships that support learning objectives and provide the kind of meaningful experiences that students need to make the transition to college and the world of work.
 
New standards and assessments in schools focus on student applied knowledge and critical thinking.  Students who have the opportunity to test these skill in real-world contexts stand to benefit greatly. This is the new way of work that, in many ways, builds on the assets students bring with them.  If we can successfully work to transfer those interests, skills and abilities and apply them in relevant, applicable contexts, it provides a win-win opportunity for students, for educators and ultimately for business and our broader community.
 
Another important role of business is to provide work experience opportunities for students. Paid and unpaid internships, and apprenticeships offer alternatives for students, especially those who are attracted to project-based learning.  This is not the vocational education of the past that often served as roadblocks for poor students and student of color.  The career and technical training programs of today provide rigorous, foundational academic skills, along with applicable technical training and are credible alternatives to traditional pathways to higher education and careers. Today, career/technical education and college preparation are not counterposed and can be complementary parts of a menu of options for different students at different points of their educational journey.  

As Superintendent of Alameda County Schools, I invite the Oakland and larger Bay Area business community to partner with us to implement some or all of these ideas. ACOE is a natural place for these creative ideas to develop and mature. As a county office of education, we serve as an umbrella organization that can bridge educational and community resources to pilot new ideas and ensure that they are rigorous and common-core standards-based. Our strategy includes a new approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes collaboration, and reflection.  I look forward to working with you.

-Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools
The Oakland Business Review, August 2013

Day of the Teacher

As County Superintendent of Schools I express my appreciation to all of our ACOE teachers serving the Juvenile Court and Community Schools, Quest, and School Age Parents and Infant Programs.
 
We at ACOE honor the special skills and commitment our teachers put forward to serve the diverse students attending our County schools. Your dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed.  The quality and success of our instructional programs depends upon the dedication, professionalism and outstanding performance you have employed to meet the challenges of the many needs of our special students.
 
I am happy to announce this year’s ACOE teacher of the year, Annie Green.  Annie exemplifies this year’s teacher of the year theme “planting the seed of success.” She is known for her unwavering support of students, for working to build a safe, supportive environment and inspiring students to achieve academic excellence.  Annie replaces Kim Boerner who ably served as last year’s ACOE teacher of the year.  We thank Kim and Annie both for their leadership and service to the profession of teaching.
 
I also want to acknowledge our Classified Employees as we approach Classified Employees week on May 19th.  I am proud of the partnership we have built with our classified colleagues.  Even great teachers need the support of great classified staff to enable consistent improvements in student achievement.  Likewise, without a talented and committed Team ACOE, schools and districts throughout the county cannot be successful.  It really takes a collective effort and I thank all ACOE staff members for their efforts to support our outstanding teachers.
 
To the teachers and classified staff of ACOE, thank you for the outstanding and meaningful contributions you are making to our students, their families, and our community. There is no work more important.

Sheila Jordan
Superintendent of Alameda County Schools

Welcoming a New Era of Public Education

The times, they are a-changin'.In the midst of a grim landscape full of fiscal challenges and achievement gaps, we have many successes and a continued opportunity to make a difference!

Our policy agenda and lobbying in Sacramento are gaining traction and ACOE is positioned as a leader and influencer at the state level. The passage of Proposition 30 provided a welcomed reprieve from the continuous cuts and erosion of our work to retain talented teachers, counselors and quality programs. Despite this "win," the struggle for adequate funding for education continues. It will take all of us working together to build the schools and communities that our children deserve.

Our recent organizational changes at ACOE have resulted in a more streamlined agency, one that's more collaborative and flexible and will help lead educators, districts and schools into a new era of public education. We are looking forward to our role in preparing districts and schools for the new Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessments. We are ready to help shape public education for the future success of all students through integrated, challenging curricula.

As the changes unfold, I look forward to working together to build stronger schools and learning communities for all our children.

 

Sheila Jordan

Superintendent of Alameda County Schools

*Lyric by Bob Dylan

Adapting Professional Practice to Address Common Core Standards

As we struggle with ongoing use regarding adequate funding for education, a positive outgrowth statewide and nationally, is the transformation and alignment of our curriculum to new Common Core standards. The new standards provide a way to demonstrate what students really understand and can do with the knowledge gained in school. It goes beyond measuring amounts of knowledge about discrete information to focus on hands-on demonstration and deepening relationships between disciplines.

This face of assessment is also set to change as we move away from high stakes testing to a more balanced model of quality assessments. These assessments can be used to inform curriculum improvements and teacher development, rather than to punish students, teachers, or schools, such assessments would support higher-quality instruction and more engaged learning. 

With changes scheduled to the new Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts scheduled for 2014-15, there is little time to spare in taking on the challenging task of preparing educators to make the shift. We are challenged as a state to prepare a work force of 295,000 teachers for this critical shift toward curricula and teaching strategies that builds student knowledge and the skills they need to apply their knowledge.

Schools, districts, and teacher preparation programs will require coordinated and coherent support to transition professional development and preparation programs for deeper learning and new performance assessments. County offices of Education, with their regional infrastructure, are uniquely qualified to work with SMART consortium, professional development support providers and higher education to respond in a customized fashion to the professional development needs of educators.

Teachers need support and structures to shift from instructional practices based on pacing guides towards a different approach to: 

• Make decisions about curriculum
• Devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students
• Support the development of assessments linked to top-quality standards

ACOE is ready to lead a countywide pilot that will demonstrate how a county office of education can be the vehicle to support superintendents in building practitioner expertise and leadership in the Common Core. Our long-standing regional partnerships and connection with key state officials place us in a great position to pilot strategies for a successful transition to the new state assessments for the state of California. 

Research shows clearly that simply increasing the amount of time spent on ineffective strategies does not result in better instruction. We need engaging, content-driven and culturally relevant curriculum to educate our youth. With a renewed focus on quality, integrated learning and improved, comprehensive assessments, we can build on the successful practices that support educating the whole child for success in school and in life.

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Upcoming Common Core Standards Toolkit ~ Training of Trainers
Session I: Overview Module Training & FAQ's
Session II: Content and Curriculum Module Training May Session | September Session

Professional Development|Common Core-Aligned
Integrated Learning Specialist Program, Summer Intensive
Project EAT Summer Institute (PD# 2819)

International Women's Day

Today as we celebrate International Women's Day, I ask you to take a moment to recognize the efforts of the women who have helped you succeed. I encourage you to pay-it forward and volunteer, donate, and or advocate for the rights of women and their families. Please join others to support the advancement and alleviate the struggles for women and girls today!

I also ask you to stay informed and support women's rights and needs!

On January 5th, the Governor released his 2012/2013 Budget Proposal. The Budget eliminates the CA Commission on the Status of Women. The Budget also proposes steep cuts to health and human services, including CalWORKs, child care and Medi-Cal. Cuts to these programs disproportionately harm women and their families.

Please take a moment and email Governor Brown and urge him to fund the California Commission on the Status of Women. Register your support: "I oppose the Governor's Budget Proposal to eliminate the California Commission on the Status of Women."

The women of the state of California need the Commission now more than ever:

  • More than one third of households headed by women with children have income that falls below the poverty level.
  • Safety net programs that serve mostly women have been slashed, with 3 billion cut from CalWORKs alone in the last 5 years.
  • Women fill only 28% of the seats in California's State Legislature.
  • 40% of women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
  • In California's 400 largest companies, women comprise only 3.3% of CEO's.

Women have already been hit hard by recent budget cuts. This new proposal threatens to deliver additional blows to the most disadvantaged Californians, most of whom are women and children.
 

Open letter to Superintendent John Pedicone, Tucson Unified School District

Superintendent John Pedicone
School Board President Dr. Mark Stegeman
Tucson Unified School District
1010 E. Tenth St.
Tucson, AZ 85719
 

Dear Superintendent Pedicone and President Stegeman:

I write in protest to the Tucson Unified School District’s recent decision to cancel your high schools' Mexican American Studies program and ban a series of books about race and Latina/o history.  In Alameda County schools, we are proud of our strong and vibrant Latina/o student population, and we know first-hand that curriculum supporting cultural heritage inspires pride, self-confidence, and success in the classroom.

I understand that Tucson's Mexican American Studies program gave Latino students a sense of pride and connection to their own history and other students were offered an insight to a community that is a major part of the local culture but all too often demonized.  With Latino students in Tucson making up more than half of the student population, it seems that Mexican American programs, books, and resources are critical to the success of your schools.  Moreover, in the greater global and political scale, to imagine that an institution of public learning has begun banning books is deeply concerning.  From one educational leader to another, I urge you to avoid giving in to a popular political rhetoric of racial tension and distrust, and urge you to reinstate programs and materials that are proven to help your students succeed.

I also encourage you to work with fellow educators throughout the Southwestern United States to explore, demonstrate, and implement programs that honor Latina/o and other cultural heritages and help all students succeed at learning.  As one such example, I encourage you to learn more about Alameda County Office of Education’s Teacher Action Research Institute (www.artiseducation.org/teaching-learning).  Action research engages teachers, students, administrators and their communities together in serious reflection about the practice of teaching and learning to successfully improve student and teacher growth and performance.  Students and teachers are able to choose learning practices that give meaning and importance to the invaluable cultural knowledge that connects students to their families and communities.  We are now using these tools to promote student success across the curricula, in language arts, math, and science, to name a few.

While the diversity of our communities can create unique challenges by forcing us to think beyond one-size-fits-all models, this richness also provides us with powerful assets for understanding, connecting, and communicating with students and families.  Let’s support one another in protecting the programs that we know to be critical to helping our students succeed.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be a resource or support your efforts to provide the very best for every student in the Tucson Unified School District. 
 
Sincerely,
Sheila Jordan
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools

A Whole Child Approach to Learning Includes After School Programs

In this time of tight budgets we need strategies with proven benefits to children and families. Schools in Alameda County have turned to afterschool programs to extend learning time and critical enrichment activities that have been cut from the regular school day. Quality afterschool programming is a winning strategy for students, families, and schools.

The evidence is strong... Afterschool works! A child who attends a program operating three hours a day for five days a week throughout the school year has gained an extra 90 days of education. Children who participate in state and federally funded afterschool programs are more engaged in school and exhibit better behavior, and higher grades and test scores. These benefits are even more pronounced for our most vulnerable students, including English language learners. The advantages of afterschool programming extend beyond participants and affect all children through increased funding to schools and districts.   For example, in its most recent evaluation the Oakland Unified School District reported a gain of over $800,000 in attendance-based revenue for Oakland schools through its afterschool program.

The Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) is proud to serve as one of the 11 statewide regional technical assistance centers supporting California’s afterschool programs.  In Alameda County each program dollar is carefully planned to deliver quality instruction to develop the whole child and close learning gaps.  We collaborate with a broad range of community-based organizations dedicated to sustaining high quality afterschool for our youth.  These programs not only keep kids safe while parents are working, but provide them with academic enrichment, homework assistance, a healthy snack, and physical activity.  

At the low cost of $7.50 per child per day, we have removed the stigma of staying after school and turned it into a time of growth and inspiration for our students in Alameda County. Our ACOE team of educators and coaches work to develop hands-on, integrated learning opportunities for students that tie directly to classroom instruction.  Innovative projects featuring STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering , Arts and Mathematics), along with healthy eating and wellness, and service learning are provided to thousands of children throughout the county. 

In California we can be proud of our publicly funded afterschool programs serving over 1,284,000 economically disadvantaged children across the state.  With funding from Proposition 49, the After School Education and Safety (ASES) program, we are able to provide a safe place for our students and to extend the school day with a fun and educational program that reinforces success in the classroom.  Resources are scarce but providing our children with appropriate afterschool activities is vital.  

Sheila Jordan
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools