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Superintendent Chris D. Funk, ESUHSD, was the special guest speaker at La Raza Roundtable’s most recent monthly meeting. Funk’s presentation was based on recent strategic planning sessions which involved all stakeholders (administration, teachers, students, parents, and business). ESUHSD and its seven feeder school districts, serve 85,000 students, which is the third largest school district in California. For the first time ever, all eight school districts have agreed to the same standards, so that the course content, statistics and other metrics can be meaningfully compared and correlated to measure progress.
One question posed was: “How will we transform teaching across the (ESUHSD) organization?” in order for student outcomes to change? What has to change in the learning environment? Is it learning tasks and instructional approaches to ensure that every student is successful? The responses became our “WHY?” And the proposed solutions became our “HOW”.
The goal is to graduate every student, prepared for college and career, empowered to transform their lives, and thrive in a global competitive economy and society. Now ESUHSD’s updated mission is to align decisions to create safe, dynamic, and relevant learning environments that inspire critical thinking, problem solving and innovation.
Core values include: a) equity; b) inclusion; c) commitment to excellence; d) diversity; and e) development of professional capacity. Equity requires resource allocations which develop practices and cultivate mindsets to ensure that every student meets or exceeds standards. Inclusiveness requires personal models of professional integrity through practices which are respectful, transparent, and proactively engage parents, students, staff, and community. Commitment to excellence requires a practiced belief in continuous updating and improvements using a culture of openness, inquiry, and collaboration. “We honor and respect those who take responsibility by taking initiative and demonstrate innovative creativity. Diversity is a valuable asset bringing in an enriching global view which strengthens and enriches our community. The enhancement of professional capacity requires a belief in, and investment in, the development of every employee and volunteer within this education system. This involves development of ability of all to communicate with each other to enable and facilitate improvements and understandings.
This leads one to a ‘theory of action’ resulting in improvement of quality of instruction. Here key performance measurements are used to define current status and permit discernment of progress. Factors to be used are: 1) graduation rate; 2) dropout rate; 3) A to G completion rates; 4) college and career readiness; and 5) closure of the achievement gap. A continuous cycle of inquiry and data gathering are used to align actions at every level; study and analyze results, and after reflection and adjustments are made, to enable informed communication with all stakeholders about the new innovative learning structures, which include professional learning communities, social and human capital formation & improvements.
The next steps will complete strategies which become ‘action plans’ which enable application of our values, vision, and mission. Key performance measurements are used to measure what matters. Strategic planning based on this current performance information permits substantive and objective communication with members of the East Side Alliance (ESA). These include ESUHSD, Oak Grove, Evergreen, Franklin McKinley, Mount Pleasant, Evergreen Community College District, San Jose State University, and Silicon Valley Education Foundation. The East Side Alliance is the group today dealing with the community’s 85,000 students.
Their ESA Memorandum of Understanding describes (articulates) the current accepted standards of PK-16 instruction; defines the placement of Algebra 1 and Geometry; defines requirements of collaboration regarding the implementation of Common Core Standards; requires use of a common set of metrics to benchmark student progress and permits meaningful data sharing.
The community’s stakeholders must understand that the above is just the beginning. The next steps involve coordinated systematic reallocation of existing funding to enable implementation, execution, evaluation, and adjustments. The professional associations and unions must devise responsible avenues which permit the re-assignment of those teachers who are tenured, but simply out of date while awaiting retirement.
Local Silicon Valley high tech industries executives must ‘buy in their own interests’ by providing substantial contributions. For example, If each student (all 85,000) were to have an e-book (estimated cost: $400 each), then $34 million is needed to permit ESUHSD to immediately adopt latest IT teaching methods. A local pilot project has already demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach at Adelante Dual Language Charter School (ARUSD). The local ultrawealthy must become enabling stakeholders by contributing the $34 million immediately, enabling these 85,000 ESIJSD students to become the future local skilled labor force.