The city of West Sacramento received the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council’s ( GSAC) inaugural “Paving the Way” award recognizing a public agency for “Exceptional Economic Development Results” at the GSAC annual More »
The West Sacramento Fire Department, in conjunction with the West Sacramento Firefighters’ Association, is preparing for the annual “Santa Run” through West Sacramento. With the help of many off-duty firefighter “elves,” Santa More »
Sports photo of the week
Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces Start of Annual CAASPP Testing
Last week, at Bridgeway Island Elementary, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that students have begun taking the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, the state’s computer-based, online assessments given in grades three through eight and eleven.
“These tests in mathematics and English language arts/literacy are one of the many ways we measure how well students are doing at the challenging job of preparing for college and a career,” Torlakson said. “I encourage all students to take advantage of this opportunity to put their learning and their skills to the test.”
2016 marks the second year more than 3 million California students will take part in CAASPP, which was designed to gauge their progress toward the learning goals set for California students. Districts and schools select their individual testing dates.
The CAASPP asks students to demonstrate the kinds of abilities they will need to do well in college and the 21st century workplace—including analytical writing, critical thinking, and problem solving.
“Because CAASPP tests are given statewide, they provide an opportunity to gauge students’ skills against the same academic standards in the same way, measuring millions with one common yardstick,” Torlakson said.
California moved to new, online, computer-adaptive assessments last year based on more challenging academic standards as part of its comprehensive plan to give every student the opportunity to graduate ready for college and to pursue a career. California is one of 20 members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which developed the assessments.
“Teachers and schools need more than a single end-of-year assessment to know how students are progressing and to tailor instruction to meet their academic goals,” Torlakson said. “That’s why California also provides both interim assessments and a Digital Library of high-quality materials and resources to help schools measure student progress throughout the year.”
Computer-based assessments, coupled with an online system to report results, can give school districts access to results earlier than the pencil-and-paper tests they replaced, allowing schools to make adjustments to improve learning and instruction.
CAASPP is particularly important for eleventh grade students to gauge college readiness. Under the Early Assessment Program, more than 100 California State Universities and California Community Colleges will use CAASPP results to determine whether students are ready for college coursework or need additional courses in their senior year of high school.
“California is leading the way in moving from a top-down approach to testing to a system focused on gathering useful insights and helping schools put them to use by improving teaching and learning,” Torlakson said. “These changes take time to carry out, and it is important to remember that schools, teachers and students are still adjusting to our new standards and assessments. We know that real progress takes patience and persistence.”
Committed to addressing the digital divide by ensuring access to technology and digital resources for our students at every school, Washington Unified School District Superintendent Linda Luna explained that the Innovative Educators Program has shown great success in the district in transitioning technology for teaching and learning. “We have teachers at each school that participate in the Innovative Educators Program in which teachers and students learn and grow using technology in the classroom,” she said.
Teachers trained in this program receive a Chrome Cart (a class set of Chromebooks) to use for their students’ learning. There are first grade students doing research, sharing Google docs and creating power point presentations in their classrooms. “We have 98 teachers in this year’s cohort of Innovative Educators. We start with another bunch next year. Our goal is to build capacity within our teachers and students until we reach 100 percent in the district.”
In addition to the Smarter Balanced assessments, schools will be administering other exams throughout the spring including:
California Alternate Assessment (CAA)
These tests in English Language Arts/literacy and mathematics will be administered to students in grades three through eight and eleven with significant cognitive disabilities. It replaces CAPA—the California Alternate Performance Assessment. These computer-based assessments are built around new, deeper learning goals – called the Core Content Connectors—which are linked to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The connectors focus on the main academic content from the standard for each grade and subject—with three levels of complexity to give all students an opportunity to demonstrate what they know.
California Standards Test (CST), the California Modified Assessment (CMA) or the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) for Science
Students in fifth, eighth, and tenth grades will be administered a science examination. Students will either take the CST, CMA or the CAPA depending upon a student’s individualized education program.
Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS)
The STS is an optional assessment for English learners at no cost to an LEA or non-English learners (e.g., pupils in dual immersion classrooms) at the cost of the LEA. The STS for reading/language arts may be administered to students in grades two through eleven.
Using science to make the world a better place: Westmore Oaks students made “solar suitcases” to energy poor schools in the Philippines
By Monica Stark
Jennifer Garcia and her students over at Westmore Oaks are at it again – using science to make the world a better place. Recall the recent story on the rain barrels? Now, in Garcia’s words are “doing an even more amazing project,” building six life changing solar suitcases for folks in the Philippines and given to schools that do not have electricity. The suitcases will be used to provide light and a charging station for lap tops, cell phones, and lights to lend out to students. We Share Solar is the nonprofit organization that does this. They have been doing this in many other places that are rebuilding after disasters or are developing countries. Asked how the project came to be, Garcia said explained that colleague and the “amazing lady next to me” in the picture, Deb Bruns, invited her to attend a solar suitcase training earlier this year. “She is from YCOE (Yolo County Office of Education) and has been an amazing asset to my teaching for a few years. I want to thank Deb for her continued support. She also brought several amazing people that were a tremendous help.”
Solar suitcases are portable solar systems from We Share Solar that will be donated to energy poor schools in the Philippines. They are a 12-volt DC stand-alone solar power system. (Basically the Photovoltaic cell charges the battery in the case. There are four ports to charge electronic devices or power lights that are also included.)
This educational experience encouraged civic engagement through building awareness of energy poverty and sustainable development. This also teaches students more energy literacy while reinforcing STEM skills through the assembly process, Garcia said.
The students completely wired the suitcase. They followed a process just like engineers to inventory the materials and all the way through the wiring process. The students even went through the steps to commission their suitcase and ensure it was working properly. Final steps were installing the components into the transportable and mounting cases (after writing greetings inside to the recipients).
Garcia said her class prepped for about a week and spent two, three-hour days to build. “I had worked out a temp schedule with the other teachers so I could keep this class for three periods both days,” she said.
Describing the students’ reactions as “priceless”, Garcia said when she first explained where the suitcases were headed and how they were to be used in schools without electricity and how hard that is for us to imagine (not having electricity), it was a very touching moment.
“I really saw empathy in my students. My students understand that they made something that will drastically change another person’s life for the better. My students know that they are making a difference,” she said.
“Once we were completed with the build, commission, and lighting up…everyone was so proud!!!! We were also a bit exhausted. It was a lot of hard work, mentally and physically. But, the feeling of accomplishment were all worth it!”
Sunpower actually paid for the teacher kit and the six student kits. They also will be adding photovoltaic cells and batteries to each of the student’s kits once they arrive in the Philippines. So, an additional big thanks goes to Sunpower!
“This was an amazing experience for my students! It was an amazing experience for me! They made something that will be a life changing tool for many!! My students changed the world!!!! I am so proud of my students!”
March Drought Spotlight Honoree – Diane in Southport
By the city of West Sacramento
While running through the neighborhoods of West Sacramento, Diane loved how much color and variety she saw in other people’s front yards. These landscapes seemed like inviting places to relax. Her lawn, however, was just a place to walk by. On a winter day in the second year of the drought, she and her spouse decided to replace their grass and dead tree with a real sitting area, full of colorful plants that would provide variety all year round. Not only is their new front yard beautiful, it requires very little water. In fact, their water usage has been cut by more than half.
Diane used Next Door to inform the city about her drought tolerant yard. If you would like to nominate your yard, or someone else’s, email email@example.com or call 617-5025. You can also use Next Door to make a nomination, as well as stay informed about neighborhood events. Visit nextdoor.com to get started.
To learn how you can make the change with your landscape, visit these sites:
Save Our Water – Landscaping 101
Be Water Smart – Top Ways to Save
EcoLandscape California – Design Plans for The New California Landscape
Beyond the Drought – Smart Irrigation Scheduler