A Message from the Principal...
Of course, our work is only beginning because our dream of building the future of learning NOW here at Hillview is a lofty vision. In that spirit, I would like to outline our goals for this year as we continue to imagine what the future of learning looks and feels like in our innovative public schools.
Our first goal includes the “effective implementation of our new schedule that combines three traditional days for more direct instruction and two block days with 90 minute periods for more in-depth, experiential learning.” Our teachers are engaged in meaningful training and planning that emphasizes thoughtful analysis and creative production on the part of our students. Every teacher has been trained by the Stanford Design School on implementing design principles in his/her classroom instruction. We will continue to pursue learning approaches that require students to apply, analyze, invent, design, solve, and ask great questions. In the spirit of the design process in which our new schedule was created, we will also spend part of the spring time evaluating the effectiveness of our new design and tweaking where necessary to ensure the perfect schedule for our students and their learning as well as our teachers and their teaching.
Our second goal is to “develop and execute our innovative Mini-Course program.” Our program’s mission is to “inspire students to explore their passions, open their minds to new ideas and delve into the world around them while engaging in critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication to shine new light on learning.” During the week of March 17-21, all of our students and staff and scores of community members will be engaging in amazing learning that expands all of our horizons. I recently sent out a link to a Survey Monkey survey encouraging each parent to offer his or her ideas for courses. The link will be sent again this Sunday in the Sunday Newsletter blast and I hope you will take a moment to give us your feedback. We will also be providing a link for students to give us their ideas. Course selection will occur before December break and the options will be fantastic.
“Integration of our 1:1 iPad program into both sixth and seventh grade classrooms,” is our third goal. By February of next year, all of our students and staff will have access to a district-provided tablet increasing the learning potential exponentially. The accessibility to a world of knowledge on the scale of a wirelessly connected personal computing device changes the dynamic of teaching and learning in ways that excites and confounds. We will not have all the answers the day the iPads are distributed; however, Hillview will remain on the cutting-edge of teaching and learning as we engage in a community-wide conversation of how learning evolves when personal digital devices are in the hands of every student and teacher. It’s exciting and daunting. Our goal is to ensure that our students use technology for good work and good play and that digital tools become a multiplier OF learning, not a distraction FROM learning. Already, most of our teachers have embraced digital tools like EdModo making access to collaboration and resources so much easier and improving students’ learning experiences. You can expect to see additional commitments to digital tools that make sense for kids and add value to the learning experience.
“Implementation of the Common Core State Standards and more problem-based assessments” is our fourth goal. Across the country the challenge of implementing the new national standards and preparing teachers and students for new, more rigorous assessments will remain a number one priority; here at Hillview, the expectation is no different. This year, Hillview will be partnering with the Silicon Valley Math Initiative to develop problem-based units of study in math aligned to the Common Core as well as offer the MARS assessment, a tool very similar to the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be used by California beginning next fall, in each of our three grade levels. Additionally, our ELA teachers have engaged in extensive training around writing and reading and are developing local benchmarks that will measure student proficiency in the areas of close reading, analysis, critical thinking, and writing required by the Common Core. Our science teachers are preparing for significant changes brought about by the New Generation Science Standards and our history teachers are engaged in a pilot of digital textbooks that make history come alive and put an emphasis on thoughtful reflection around primary and secondary sources. Each of these efforts will align our instruction with new assessments and thus the creation of new goals and benchmarks for the achievement of ALL of our students.
I have outlined for you just FOUR goals. And while they are probably the four most important goals, they are hardly the only goals in which we are engaged here at Hillview. As you travel from class to class today, I hope it is evident how hard the teachers in your community are working to provide a world-class education to your students. It is no accident that buyers are clamoring to purchase homes in this community and our schools in MPCSD continue to outpace enrollment projections. What the teachers and staff are doing here at Hillivew is truly remarkable. Please take a moment tonight and over the course of this year to share your appreciation with them. Whether it be a friendly smile, a handwritten note of thanks, a kind phone call or a supportive email, please reach out to recognize these individuals who are making such a positive impact. I am asking a lot of these teachers and they are delivering in spades!
In fact, I’d like you to help me with a little project. I would like to take this year to focus some time and energy around giving thanks. When you experience a teacher or other staff member doing something that positively impacts your child’s life and learning, I want to encourage you to share that story with me. I will share those stories, anonymously if you prefer, with their colleagues in messages and at meetings. As hard as this staff is working, they can truly benefit from knowing how their hard work is impacting the lives of our children.
As I close this evening, I want to ask that each of you join us again in May at Open House to hear how well we were able to accomplish our goals. I also ask you to join my family in supporting the PTO and Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation with a financial commitment that makes sense for you and your family. We can’t all give the same, but we can give something. Last year 84% of our families supported the Joint Campaign…incredible. Thank you. This year, I hope the commitment is the same.
I tell you honestly, the Parent Ed Series, the Mini Courses, the robust elective program, the 1:1 iPad program—none of it—would be possible with out your support of these two organizations.
(a.k.a. Mr. B)
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