Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Concert

Upcoming Furlough Days

This is a post on Facebook by the Alvarado Elementary PTC to notify parents and staff of upcoming changes in the school calendar. Yes, Social Media has come to AE.

Due to the budget cuts from the state of California for the year 2011-2012, schools were forced to reduced the school year from 181 days to 175 days.

In consideration of New Haven families and to align with the legal observance of the New Year's Day holiday, the District's employee groups tentatively have agreed to extend winter break by one day, through Monday, Jan 2. Schools, which will be closed starting Monday, Dec 19, will reopen Tuesday, Jan 3, pending final approval by the New Haven Teachers Association next Tuesday and ratification by the Board of Education on Tuesday night.

To maintain a 175-day school year, schools would be open Wednesday, March 21, which previously was designated as one of the six furlough days being forced upon the District because of state budget cuts.

The schedule is unchanged for the other furlough days: Feb. 10, March 5, April 20, May 21 and June 14. Employees also are sacrificing a sixth day without pay on a non-student day. The furlough days were scheduled for the second half of the school year to allow for the possibility some or all of the days could be reinstated if the budget situation improved.

Monday, October 31, 2011

5th grade Marine Boat Trip

Red Ribbon Week

Halloween 2011 Ninja Turtle Teachers
Clinton Puckett, Letty Munoz-Gonzales, Maureen Tecson, Vince Lindain

Typically Halloween is the end of Red Ribbon Week. This week is devoted to the "Say No To Drugs" campaign which was co-chaired by Nancy Reagan the wife of former President Ronald Reagan.

According to the United States National Drug Enforcement Administration the National Red Ribbon program is the oldest drug prevention campaign in the United States in which young people pledge to live a drug free life. Millions of students and teachers plan daily activities to remind students of this pledge.

Here is Alvarado's Red Ribbon schedule.
Tuesday--Sock it to Drugs. Wear crazy or mismatched socks
Wednesday--Stay in the Game. Wear your favorite sports team apparel.
Thursday--I Can, You Can, We Can say NO to drugs. Canned food drive.
Friday--These Paws Don't Touch Drugs. Wear AES Spiri
t Wear.
Monday, the 31st, Halloween--Say BOO to drugs. Wear your costume.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome to AE 2011

We are AES from Mr. Guernsey on Vimeo.

State Test Scores Go UP! UP! UP!

Alvarado Elementary made double-digit gains on the 2011 API, State of California Academic Performance Index. Alvarado improved by 17 points, to 852 and is up 111 points since 2004-05. Alvarado is the second highest performing elementary school in the New Haven School District only behind Delaine Eastin.

In the last few years Alvarado has implemented programs such as Writer's Workship, Balanced Literacy, and Leveled Literacy Intervention to improve scores. The focus for 2011 was on Comprehension Strategies. These along with the teamwork of the staff have helped to get these scores up.

Unfortunately, Alvarado did not meet the federally mandated AYP, Adaquate Yearly Progress, target for English & Language Arts from No Child Left Behind so they will be in the second year of program improvement.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Staff Summer Fun

Maureen Tecson, Vince Lindain, Sonia Wong loving it in the Bahamas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good News, Bad News 2011-2012

Good News should always come first. Principal Tracie Noriega of Alvarado Elementary has been selected for a pilot test of National Board Certification for principals. She is among 240 principals selected from more than 700 applicants from 19 states. The program hopes to establish leadership research-based standards, identify effective school leaders, and elevate the profession. Congratulations Tracie!

Due to the state of California's budget problems, New Haven was required to lay off 70 teachers at the end of the 2011 school year. However, many of the Alvarado teachers who were laid off at the end of the year have been able to be rehired. Alvarado also added a part-time Assistant Principal, Mistee Hightower-Guzman, to the staff.

Mistee Hightower-Guzman

Pat Pedroze is the new Resource Specialist and Yurani Maycotte DePerez is the new office Assistant, For a while, the plan was to lay of the media specialists at the middle schools but that plan was ultimately scrapped.

Now for the Bad News. The instructional year has been reduced from 180 days to 175 days. Students will receive five fewer days of instruction this year. This means all employees will be making less money because they will be taking six unpaid furlough days. This also means that parents who have their children in day care may have to pay for more days in day care as their children will not be in school as many days. There are still fewer teachers, so the class size reduction ratio in grades kinder through third grade took a big hit. Class sizes will increase. Kindergarten will increase 25 to 1. First and second grades will be 25 to 1. Third grade will increase 30 to 1. Last year third grade was 25 to 1. There is no limit on class size for fourth or fifth grade.

The Good News is as the new year begins, your child's teacher will do everything possible to make the school experience the best for each child. The changes discussed above mean that the teacher will revamp their program to meet each child's needs academically and socially. This is a challenge Alvarado teachers are very capable of meeting.

Program Improvement AYP/API 2010-2011

In the 2010-2011 school year, Alvarado Elementary was placed in Program Improvement. Although increasing our API (Academic Performance Index) score from 816 in 2008, to 826 in 2009, we missed meeting our 2009 goal for our Socio-economically disadvantaged population AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). Again, in 2010, although increasing our overall score to 835, AES did not make our Latino student goal. Since goals were missed two years in a row, we were placed in Program Improvement. Letters were sent out to our Alvarado Families informing them of this and, as per law, offered these families a transfer to another school in the district. Less than .025% opted to transfer while the remaining families stayed at AES.

Teachers and staff took the PI rating hard, especially with a 9 point increase in API. Staff morale took a hit, especially with the grim economic environment, and, given little or no help from the District office, Alvarado Elementary staff formed a cohesive group to address these issues and provide staff development. Our focus has been on the seven comprehension strategies: Connections, Questioning, Inferring, Visualizing, Determining Importance, Monitoring Meaning, and Synthesizing, and in the year 2011-2012 staff will be trained on "Critical Literacy".

The 2011 data is due out in a few weeks and we are anxiously waiting to hear the results. This post was written by Laurie Koehler, a respected third grade teacher and former Literature Leader at Alvarado. Keep in mind that API is the State of California Index. AYP is the No Child Left Behind federally mandated standard.

No Child Left Behind

The Learning Walk

"Through the talking about goals, and reflecting on observations I think we can improve our craft. We can't be afraid to look at ourselves critically."
Carmen Jorgenson

Learning walks were developed from a business model at Hewlet Packard where management walked around and observed the company workers. The Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh developed and coined the term "Learning Walks" which is one of the new buzz words in education today. Principals, teachers, and superintendents visit classrooms as a team in order to see what students are experiencing at any given time. Some visits can be the whole class time or as brief as 5 to 10 minutes. Learning walks are about observation, reflection and growth, how teachers teach, how students learn, what gets taught to whom and why. NHUSD has adopted this format to develop improvements to instruction by assisting teachers with PLC's (Professional Learning Community). Alvarado has been doing Learning Walks since 2008. This practice also helps to identify best practices and future teacher leaders.

However, the business model presents some challenges for the school environment. If teachers leave the classroom to participate in the walk, then substitute teachers are teaching their students. Substitutes cost money and do not always provide the same quality of instruction as the regular classroom teacher. Team members are not supposed to talk during the visit unless they ask a question of a student and are to be unobtrusive in the classroom. Students are sometimes overwhelmed by having a group of teachers in their classrooms. In March of 2012, fifty teachers and administrators visited Alvarado in one day. Most classrooms in California are already overcrowded with barely enough room for the students. In some cases there may be as many as 6 or 7 teachers in the classroom possibly disrupting the focus of students.

School environments are very complex. Principals and teachers are being pulled in a million directions every day. Often there may not be the time to prepare and debrief teachers as the model requires. This can be very frustrating for the staff. Often teachers are told their class will be visited and then the team runs out of time for all the visits. This leaves the teachers on edge and wondering the age old question, "Am I not good enough for the team to observe?" Also the teams seldom visit the library, the science room, physical education, or the music class making those teachers feel like second class citizens.

For those being visited, Learning Walks can be stressful for teachers especially if they do not know the focus of the observation. For those schools in Program Improvement, the Walkers also look to see if the daily objectives of lessons are posted. Some of the time each teacher in each group is given a specific focus to observe. Before moving to the next classroom the teachers meet for about 5 minutes to debrief by each reporting their observations. Often the classroom teachers being observed are told to do a guided reading lesson during the visit which could mean the focus is reading instruction, but the team could be looking for interactions between students and teachers, classroom organization, independence in student learning, evidence of deep and rigorous thinking, displays, or all the above.

There are a set of steps for the walkers which includes orientation of the staff, instructional focus of the walk, the actual classroom visitation, brief outside the classroom talk, debriefing, and communication with teachers, either oral or written. The walkers may not make judgement statements about what the teachers and students are doing or not doing. Usually schools use a recording sheet for team members to jot down their observations. The teams often look at the walls to see how they support learning and examine student work on those walls. Some team members ask questions of students. The team looks to see what individual help is given to students. After all classrooms have been visited, then the team meets for general debriefing where each person shares what they saw in the classroom citing specific evidence. Then team members make inferences about how they can use their learnings in their own classroom or in the case of best practices the entire school. It is important to communicate the learnings to staff members not on the team and to thank the teachers who have been visited.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fifth Grade Video 2011

AES 5th Grade Random 2011 from Mr. Guernsey on Vimeo.

Resource Teacher Retires

Donna Smith-Harrison and her husband, Sam

After 35 years of teaching, Donna Smith-Harrison is retiring. She has been at Alvarado for 10 years. Her students will greatly miss her. Donna has been a strong influence on many students as she has a very special knowledge and understanding of students with special needs.

Donna Reads the Important Books made by students and staff and Tracie wishes her well.

Carmen, Thora, Karen, Cheri
Best Friends Forever say Farewell

Steve, Rachel................ Sam, Donna, Thora

Donna gave all the staff a good laugh with a list of her top ten reasons for retiring.

Mani, Laurie................ Rachel, Colleen

Anna, Nancy, Jill, Anita, Vince

Congratulations Donna.
Thanks for the many years of service.

To begin her retirement with fun and friends, Donna had lunch with this fabulous group of principals at the Slanted Door in San Francisco.

Karen Saucedo, Cheri Benafield, Donna Smith-Harrison
Tracie Noriega, Carmen Jorgenson

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Visit With Retired AE Teachers

After teaching for 20 or 30 years, retired teachers wonder what life will have in store for them. It's time to enjoy life and have adventures sometimes in a completely new direction. The following are examples of life continuing to be well lived.

Margo Zanzinger
As a retired person, my family has opened a frozen yogurt shop, Top-A-Lot Yogurt, 738 Water Street, Santa Cruz, CA. Our shop was voted the BEST frozen yogurt shop in Santa Cruz by the people of Santa Cruz in the Good Times news paper for 2011. I have become a Practioner at Innerlight Ministeries in Soquel, CA. I live in a retirement community, right on the ocean. I love to hear from all my teacher friends, so give me a call.

Rita McBride
I have been square dancing for the past 8 years. My dog, Bagel, and I are part of the Ohlone Humane Society's Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

Bagel and I visit 2 nursing homes in Fremont as visitors to seniors and we go to the Fremont Library for the Read To A Dog program each month. I also go to Logan graduation ceremonies to see students I had in my kindergarten class years ago.
William Legaspi and Tim Alarcon 2011 Logan Grads with Rita.

ManYee Desandies
ManYee has been semi-retired for the first year of her retirement. She has worked with students three hours a day at Alvarado on the Leveled Literacy Intervention program. Taking walks around the lake with her dog has allowed her to expand her nature photography hobby to include magnificent photos of birds which are published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She continues to explore the joys of technology with her ipad and even gives free ipad lessons to her friends. Her handsome grandson, Jinyao, is the joy of her life.

Joan Logue
Joan lives in a Sun City retirement community and loves it. She loves the golf, the Mac group, and even has her own set of Bocce balls. She is also thrilled with her grandson, Jamie. For the last 8 years she has been the leader of the bereavement group.

Mary Ogden
Mary lives in the beautiful city of Discovery Bay with the wind and the water to enjoy. She lives close to her daughter and her grandchildren and spends a lot of time with them.

Sharon Chambers
I spend my time working on my garden patio, getting my house in order, and writing this blog and a few other blogs. I still love using technology. I also love to spend time with my two lovely granddaughters. Last year we had an adventure with the girls in Nevada City helping their Uncle Josh with his gold mine and swimming in the river.
We also spent a holiday vacation taking care of the girls in Texas while mom and dad were at work. When done, we were exhausted.

Marty Brown
Marty is still Best Friends Forever (BFF) with Debbie Fryman, who is now at Eastin. She often goes over to help Debbie with her classroom.

Wonder Women -Teacher And Staff 2011

Two remarkable Wonder Women have been honored for their service to staff and students at Alvarado Elementary. Although this award is for 2011, it is their long and diligent service over a period of years that is recognized. Maureen Tecson is the 2011 Teacher of the Year and Betty Silva is the Classified Staff Person of the Year.

Maureen Tecson, a second grade teacher, is a member of the ILT the Instructional Leadership Team. She is a skilled, collaborative, dedicated, hardworking teacher warrior who cares greatly about every one of her students. In this time of great economic need she has provided direction for many teachers on grants and possible financial resources. She also teaches an after school dance class. She has received grants from the New Haven Schools foundation for her dance class and grants from DonorsChoose for her own classroom. At the end of each year she teaches the staff a dance which is performed in front of the entire school. This event is greatly loved by the students. She is also in charge of the Facebook page for the Alvarado Elementary Parent Teachers Club. Maureen epitomizes the term school spirit by uplifting parents, staff, and students. Congratulations Maureen for Teacher of the Year 2011.

Maureen Tecson

Betty Silva has been a part of the Alvarado family for over 20 years. She has been an aide in almost every grade. During the last few years, Betty began working with special needs students including those with autism. She brings her many years of experience and skill to those students who need it most. She is kind, hardworking, and fun loving. When something needs to be done, Miss Silva offers to help. She has provided after school and before school reading intervention classes and homework help for students. Congratulations Betty on this well deserved award.

The Fun Faces of Betty Silva

Monday, May 2, 2011

Staff Photo 2010-2011

Staff Photo 2010-2011
Pam Ruley, Dave Martell, and Kim Pratt not shown
Click on the photo to enlarge

Bust This Test

It's that time of year, testing time. Testing is a stressful time for both students and teachers. It used to be called the STAR test and some still use that name. STAR stands for Standardize Test for Achievement in Reading. However, now students are tested for Reading, Math and Science. Officially it's called the CST, California Standardized Test. Teachers have been getting their students test ready with a variety of strategies. At Alvarado the phrase BUST THIS TEST is used to motivate students to focus and try their best. Students use practice tests and strategies for choosing multiple choice questions.

Go to bed early
Be on time to school
Focus on the test
Read the title first
Read the questions first then read the passage
When you are done, go back and check your answers

Teachers Keith Guernsey, Jeff Pickering, and David Trier produce a video to reduce student test stress and use it in an assembly to motivate students. Go to the Alvarado Elementary School website to view by clicking on view the movie on the left.

California uses five performance levels to report student achievement on the CSTs:
  • Advanced: This category represents a superior performance. Students demonstrate a comprehensive and complex understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
  • Proficient: This category represents a solid performance. Students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
  • Basic: This category represents a limited performance. Students demonstrate a partial and rudimentary understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
  • Far Below / Below Basic: This category represents a serious lack of performance. Students demonstrate little or a flawed understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Library or media

Media is layered to included appropriate literature, technology, internet safety, and library skills . Students check out books and had a skills, literature, or technology lesson every week. The media specialist also ran the media retrevial system known as Synergy during the 1990's. Around 1996 to 1998 students put on a TV school wide show with school news. It was produced by the media specialist but the students did the acting and ran the camera. By 2008 this system was obsolete. When funds were available, author visits were also provided for the students. Patricia Polacco, Caryn Yacowitz, and Marissa Moss were some of the authors. The media specialist also coordinated the yearly Young Author Faire which is no longer in existence in New Haven. The media specialist is a librarian, teacher, and technology mentor for staff, teachers, and students. The media specialists often operated the school wide book fair. The media specialists also trained students from the middle school library to shelve books, do research for new students projects, and help students find information.

As new technology came out it, was often introduced to the students. When Google Earth appeared 4th and 5th graders explored the application for a look at the seven wonders of the world, the oceans, rivers, and countries. Melinda Steffans was the librarian through most of the 1980's. In 1987 Rhonda Neagle became the media specialist. In 1990 through 2008-2009 Sharon Chambers was the media specialist. Alisha Valine became the media specialist in September of 2009.

I-Buddy Internet Safety

Intervention: What? Why? How?

What is intervention? Intervention is designed to help students who need help learning to read. The students can range from Kindergarten students to 5th graders who are English language learners. There are a variety of types of intervention that have been used at Alvarado including intervention by the classroom teacher, during class and after school; Reading Recovery; and group before or after school reading classes. Intervention does not take the place of the regular classroom instruction. Intervention is in addition to classroom instruction.

Alvarado has started a new program this year (2010-11) called Leveled Literacy Intervention. It is a supplementary intervention program designed to provide powerful, daily, small-group instruction for the children in the early grades. There can be no more than three students in each group. There are comprehensive lesson plans for three levels from beginning reading in Kindergarten or Grade 1 to beginning reading for Grade 3. Leveled Literacy Intervention is designed to be used with young children who need intensive support to achieve grade-level competency.

This system uses both sight words (memorized words) and phonics. There are hundreds of leveled fiction and non fiction books provided for the students. Students read one book the first day, work on phonics, sight words, and take the book home to read. The second day they reread a previous book, write about the story, and again take home a book.

Mrs. Desandies and Students

Mrs. Desandies a former 3rd grade teacher with many years of experience has been selected to teach these daily 40 minute classes. According to Mrs. Desandies these are the strengths of the system:
1. The books are excellent: interesting, attractive, well-designed on many levels.
2. The literature covers a wide variety of genres (very strong on non-fiction).
3. The program is comprehensive: reading (word work, comprehension, fluency), and writing (letter formation, spelling, conventions, content).
4. The skills are introduced in a very systematic and sequential way, in small increments, and consistently reviewed.

5. Excellent follow-through and spiraling.
6. The daily lesson plan supports extensive reading, discussion, review, and writing in a fast-paced, engaging manner.
7. The small group format maximizes individual growth.
8. The consistency of 5 lessons a week over a long period of time promotes accelerated progress.
9. Early intensive intervention prevents emerging literacy difficulties rather than corrects long-term failures.
10. Continuous assessment pinpoints precise and on-time teaching points for each individual student.
Mrs. Desandies also uses one of her favorite tools to motivate students. Students learn to form letters of the alphabet and build words with the moveable alphabet with her personal ipad.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Music and Performing Arts

Music in the Library
Laurie Taner

Music involved the preps but also all the after school music programs. For many years all schools were involved in Marching On. Marching On was a performance art program of all schools at James Logan High School to showcase the musical talents of students. The music teachers were required to teach after school choir, but they were paid extra for it. However a tremendous amount of time went into arranging the performances and getting the students ready to perform. Every school was assigned to perform. The bands and recorders played and all the choirs sang. Students who were not in choir or recorders still had music every day and often performed at assemblies at school. Laurie Taner was the Music teacher in the 90's, then came Ivan DeSousa, La Verne Shue Chen, then David Martell in 2008.

La Verne Shue Chen
Ivan DeSousa

Dave Martell