Palo Alto school district deploys specialists for Common Core transition

Three teachers to help middle and high school staffs with new curriculum

See Teachers take on strategic roles in new school year

As new Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards materials, practices and assessments continue to roll out, three Palo Alto Unified teachers will spend this upcoming year away from the classroom, working in the district office to help the secondary schools make the curricular transition.

This is the first time there will be district-level teachers on special assignment, or TOSAs, dedicated to the middle and high schools. (The district has had TOSAs serving the elementary schools for several years.)

Each of the three teachers will serve as a coach and facilitator in a particular subject area -- mathematics, English/social studies and science -- guiding middle and high school teachers as they shift their instructional practices toward the state's new standards. Suz Antink, a Palo Alto High School math teacher who has been in the district for more than 30 years, will oversee math-related Common Core support. Karen Logue, a Terman Middle School English teacher, will oversee English and social studies. Tamara Juarez, a Terman science teacher, will be in charge of Next Generation Science Standards.

Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards are not new to Palo Alto; they were officially adopted in 2010 with implementation beginning in 2013. And many teachers and administrators say that the standards' bent toward critical thinking, project-based learning and real-world applications have long been in place in many Palo Alto classrooms. Yet as new materials are released and the district waits on the results of a brand new standardized test that students took this spring, the district will rely on this new team of district TOSAs to guide both middle and high school teachers forward in a more cohesive manner than in the past.

"We've been throwing around Common Core for what, three to four years?" Antink said. "You would think -- 'Isn't it here?' It's just getting here."

"We should be able to help take best practices from one school to another to another to another," she added. "We'll start to get rid of some of the seams between the different levels in our district. We're supposed to be K-12, so we're hoping to make that a little smoother."

The three teachers said a major shift in all core subject areas will be the slimming down some classes' coverage to allow for more in-depth instruction. The Next Generation Science Standards push for science classes that don't teach just science, but also math, engineering and more reading and writing.

"The philosophy is that students will be thinking like scientists, doing inquiry, making experiments and thinking like engineers, solving problems, working with parameters, evaluating their work, collaborating with others," Juarez said of the new science standards.

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2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:44 am

Common Core is a major change in teaching. It's going to take more than three teachers help the district make this transition.

11 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Every time I hear "Common Core" I have to admit I think lowest common denominator (not as in the mathematical meaning). For example, in math it seems like "show your work" is being replaced by "explain your work with lots of words". I've tried to teach my child that the key to understanding math and solving problems is to get rid of the words ... abstract the problem up front and leave only the mathematics to speak for itself. Its much easier to understand than a jumble of words.

9 people like this
Posted by worst. website. fail. ever.
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm

District's new website is a disaster. What an embarrassment. I almost can't believe how terrible it is. And in a vicious assault on parents, they launched it the week school starts. What a lump of junk and in the heart of Silicon Valley. We are now the laughingstock of our own parent community. [Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm

@ worst website ever,

You said what I was thinking. What was wrong with the old one? It didn't hide the information well enough?

4 people like this
Posted by Barry Garelick
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2015 at 6:40 am

To Dan,

Agree with you about the penchant for "explaining" work when "showing" one's work should be enough. See: Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by worst. website. fail. ever.
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:22 am

Thank the Lord. You can still access the old site here: Web Link

I wonder how this new site was built. It looks as if (really?) it might have been built internally rather than by professionals. It looks like the website to a third-world web cafe.

At least we have our own celebrity: Web Link

Did the board know that staff was going to take the website used by staff and parents and one week before the start of school turn it into an unusable buggy lump of junk? How did this happen without any public discussion or board oversight? You don't just roll out a broken thing like this without at least internally testing it first. Was it tested?

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:11 am

The philosophy of the new website seems to be simplify with more pictures. Unfortunately, the information content has been simplified out of existence.

1 person likes this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:45 am


Like this comment
Posted by Classified Employee
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Dear teacher, resident of Barron Park,

Good question. Will you kindly let me know when you find out?
We are on the same boat here.

for those who are not familiar with the school's jargon:
Classified Employees- not certificated (teachers), not administration. Everything else: custodians, secretaries, aides, drivers etc.

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:32 pm

@worst. website. ever,

I'm sure the usual sycophants at 25 churchill tried it out and had glowing things to say. Which do you think will happen: it will give anyone pause about the perils of surrounding oneself with sycophants, or put us through another season of parent bashing as complaints mount and the usual suspects at churchill say the parents are just never satisified? My money is still on the sycophants.

Like this comment
Posted by Full explanation.
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy McGrumpus
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2015 at 2:14 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by worst. website. fail. ever.
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2015 at 8:31 pm

Oh my, I thought you would never ask [and for the record, it was indeed Tabitha who was tasked with the new website and it was indeed Emberling who insisted that we needed a new website and that this was the basis for Emberling's support for hiring and retaining Tabitha -- because we needed Tabitha to do the new website].

1. The start page is static and difficult to access content. It has three quicklinks, the first of which is the Strategic Plan. Please supply any evidence for any use case in which the first thing anyone using this site ever wanted to do was read the strategic plan.

2. The menu that drops down hides the content below, and many of the links exposed are broken or lead to nothing that makes sense or works.

3. The boxes that appear at some point if you click things mostly lead to empty/broken/missing content.

4. Missing content includes things like all the data, and surveys, prior versions of the strategic plan data, CHKS and PARC data, and other information that the public wants to see/use. Weirdly the text is there that suggests that this data is here but nothing is a link and the data is not there.

5. The menus at the top of the screen disappear when you try to roll down and click on them, setting off a frustrating game of catch the menu.

6. the boxes are not clickable in the "go" circle even though that is exactly where people click making this the worst design ever.

7. Much of the content is old/outdated/not useful, such as the info under the link for the Enrollment committee which is how to apply for it by March 15, 2015. Helpful. No agendas, minutes or who is on it even though it has been meeting this summer. Helpful.

I could go on but I won't. This is a government website. It is supposed to help the public find information it needs. It is not supposed to be a flashy video platform for the cult of Max. What is WITH THAT anyway? Sigh. Can't we just have a website that helps the public to get what it needs and gives information easily? On that measure (and on simply functionality and usability) this is a total failure. It should be rolled back immediately. It wasn't ready to be rolled out and the public needs a usable, up to date, and correct source of information. The old site did that. This does not and should be rolled back until it does.

There is no reason not to roll this back since PAUSD is not a software company with a stock price on the line. I don't know who built and approved this this but they should be terminated and a contractor that actually knows how to design a government website should be hired to start over.

This site shows contempt for the public. It gives people a horrible, frustrating user experience on the first day of school that appears to deliberately withhold information that the public needs to be able to access, while providing information that is completely non-needed (like the little descriptions of each school). This looks like marketing material, not a public governmental website trying to get information to people.

5 people like this
Posted by C'est Fou
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:49 am

Common Core = Dumb Down the Curricula

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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