Helping At-Risk Students Step Up to Science
10/9/2012 - NSTA Reports—Debra Shapiro
When San Jose, California’s East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) adopted the state’s A-G requirements—a set of 15 courses students must pass to qualify for the University of California and California State University systems—the district knew many of its incoming ninth graders were unprepared for ninth-grade biology. ''This cohort of students is two or more years behind in the content area, and more often than not, has had no laboratory science in the middle school—unbelievable,'' says Paul Kilkenny, ESUHSD’s science coordinator. ''Additionally, our district is 62% language-minority pupils, so we anticipated a generalized struggle with the literacy rigors of college prep[aratory] biology,'' he notes.
The nonprofit Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), which encouraged the district to adopt the more rigorous requirements, stepped in to help. Working with Kilkenny and a team of ESUHSD teachers, and with grant funding from Texas Instruments, SVEF created a summer program called Stepping Up to Science (STEPS) to fill in the knowledge gaps of incoming ninth graders. ''After surveying our district’s biology teachers, examining the literature for successful approaches, and looking carefully at our own marking-period benchmark assessments for biology, we decided to amplify those content standards and standard elements that were proving most problematic for our 10th graders as measured by our benchmark assessments and CST [California Standards Test] cluster scores,'' Kilkenny explains. The district then chose a team ''of our very highest-performing biology teachers” to both create the curriculum and teach the summer course at their home schools, “offering students continuity by being their regular biology teacher during the school year,'' he maintains.
He describes the STEPS curriculum as ''a highly engaging, inquiry-based, and rigorous curriculum with elements of literacy and SDAIE [Specifically Designed Academic Instruction in English], all built on a foundation of [the] Gradual Release of Responsibility [Model].'' This model is ''based on the idea that optimum learning happens when responsibility for task completion shifts gradually over time from the teacher to the student,'' explains Connie Skipitares of SVEF’s media relations and grant writing staff.
The district ''required each teacher to create three units; each unit is a 5.5-hour summer school day for a teacher with [his or her] students,'' says Teresa Ramirez of Andrew P. Hill High School in San Jose, who has taught STEPS for two years. ''We worked on this curriculum very intensely for a year, sometimes after school on Fridays and when school was out of session. So this really helped us to collaborate with other teachers in our district and with our district science coordinator.''
Ramirez continues, ''We turned our units into the district, and we would meet to review each teacher’s units to see if the units covered biology state and district standards…[W]e chose standards that we [thought] were the most challenging for our district’s students to learn. This way, they would be exposed to these biological concepts before they took biology their freshman year.''
STEPS involves 80 hours of instruction and lab time, ''equivalent to half of an academic year,'' and students receive elective credits for their summer study, Skipitares notes. ''The curriculum has integrated STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] in some areas to provide a more robust and real-world learning experience for students,'' she contends.
''During the course, the students are treated like high school students due to the workload that is in the program. Students learn basic science skills and lab techniques, which allows them to transfer into the laboratory experiments. They take notes, read, write, and are able to apply their knowledge through hands-on lab and out-of-the-classroom activities,'' says STEPS teacher Anthony Nguyen of Andrew P. Hill High School. ''The students get to see the exciting parts of biology. Students are able to apply what they learn from class into the laboratory,'' he adds.
Skipitares agrees. ''Teachers get the opportunity to teach in a nontraditional manner [in a program] heavy with activities and hands-on learning versus traditional lecture and notetaking approach,'' she maintains.
''Having a teacher aide is a must for these four- to five-hour sessions,'' Nguyen points out. ''There is much needed lab prep time, and the teacher is not able to do it alone.''
Ramirez says she appreciates the opportunity to be in a classroom ''where students can move easily and have plenty of room to carry out an experiment. After I am done teaching this program for the summer in this kind of environment, I go back to my classroom where I have no student sinks and barely room to do any experiments or activities.'' She believes the program is effective because it features ''science activities and science experiments that we cannot do throughout the year because of the expense and time duration. During the summer, we can do more hands-on science activities and experiments because we have the students for 5.5 hours each day, [each] week, for four weeks.'' In addition, ''we have some grant money to cover some of the expenses of the material that we need for experiments,'' she notes.
During the program’s first year, grant funding enabled Ramirez and her students to take field trips to Alum Rock Park, one of California’s oldest municipal parks, for a science treasure hunt; to Half Moon Bay to observe sea lions; and to the Tech Museum, a hands-on technology and science museum in downtown San Jose. ''Plus we had time to have fun and [do] 'get to know others' activities,'' she observes, adding, ''I value going on field trips because students learn from the real world what science is about besides in the classroom.''
The program’s college field trips ''take students to Stanford University, Santa Clara University, [and] San Jose State University (SJSU),'' says Skipitares. ''Our student groups are usually led around the campuses by a college student guide who takes them to the far corners of the campus, and often we make arrangements for the group to visit a ‘working’ summer classroom of college students in math or science. One summer, the students visited an engineering class at SJSU [during which] the instructor was teaching his students about robotics. He showed them some robotics in action. Just about every kid who walked out of there said he [or] she wanted to design and build robotics,'' she recalls. ''Teachers accompany students and either just go along to be with students, or they get involved [and] interact with the college professors in the class that the group visits,'' she adds.
So far the STEPS teachers seem to have encountered few challenges with the program, but Ramirez expresses a concern about funding: ''The second year,…we only had one field trip: [the] Stanford University Tour, but [we] continued with science experiments and activities because we were still granted $500 for the materials needed to carry out these activities and experiments.''
''We’ve developed a metric for data collection, and all indications are that the students are succeeding in ninth-grade biology in far greater proportions than the success we were measuring in the weak, non-rigorous, …qualifying required course for ninth graders,'' says Kilkenny. (According to Skipitares, SVEF’s data shows students average a 40% gain in content knowledge based on the program’s pre-and post-assessments.) He adds that STEPS “has significantly narrowed the ethnic achievement gap in our district’s science curriculum.''
Skipitares notes the number of students enrolled has increased from 200 to 300 this summer. ''We will continue to provide eight classrooms in the ESUHSD and offer additional classrooms in San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell, and Morgan Hill School Districts. In addition,…we will provide professional development to 40 science teachers focused on biology content and [the Gradual Release of Responsibility] Model,'' she reports.
Of his STEPS students, Nguyen remarks, ''Not surprisingly, these students remember most concepts that we learned in summer school and are able to transfer [them] to [other students]. From some of the at-risk students, I am hearing phrases like ‘I never knew science was this fun.’ They are learning and appreciating science for the first time.''
By Justin Gillis
The New York Times
Posted: 04/09/2013 04:24:01 PM PDT
Updated: 04/09/2013 04:57:39 PM PDT
Worried that public schools are failing to prepare students for a complex and changing world, educators Tuesday called for sweeping changes in the way science is taught in the United States, emphasizing hands-on learning and critical scrutiny of scientific evidence.
Known as the ''Next Generation Science Standards,'' the guidelines mark the first time that anything close to national principles for science education have been developed. They were devised to combat widespread scientific ignorance, standardize teaching among disparate states and raise the number of high school graduates who choose scientific and technical majors in college, a critical issue for the country's economic welfare.
California is one of several states expected to give the standards serious consideration. The state Board of Education is likely to discuss the issue at its July meeting and could consider adopting them as early as November.
''In the next decade, the number of jobs requiring highly technical skills is expected to outpace other occupations,'' said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a statement Tuesday. ''These Next Generation Science Standards will help students achieve real-world practical skills so they can help maintain California's economic and technological leadership in the world.''
In a move that could prove controversial, the guidelines call for introducing the science of climate change into the curriculum starting in middle school, and teaching high school students in detail about the effects of human activity on climate. Groups critical of mainstream science thinking have criticized this step.
The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century, but one that has rallied state lawmakers and some religious conservatives to insist that alternative notions like intelligent design be taught.
Though 26 states representing well over half the U.S. population have committed to giving serious consideration to formal adoption of the guidelines, and at least a dozen more states are expected to study the guidelines closely, there is no guarantee that the standards will be adopted in any state.
The central thrust of the guidelines, which were devised in collaboration with a national association of science teachers, scientists and federal science agencies, is to move teachers away from simply presenting scientific facts in the classroom and expecting children to memorize them.
The focus instead would be on learning how science is done: how ideas are developed and tested, what counts as strong or weak evidence and how insights from many scientific disciplines fit together into a coherent picture of the world.
''We're going to go from teaching kids how to memorize terms to giving kids hands-on, 21st century learning,'' said Muhammed Chaudhry, President and CEO for the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has long advocated for more robust instruction in math and science. ''There's a strong emphasis on engineering, which is huge for the Valley.''
With the guidelines, educators foresee more use of real-world examples, like taking students to a farm or fish hatchery to help them learn principles of biology, chemistry and physics.
They want students to learn to construct at least basic versions of scientific models -- the simplified representations of reality that undergird tasks as diverse as building a skyscraper that will not collapse, designing a drug to treat illness and accurately predicting the effects of global warming.
And they want to introduce students to topics that can be made comprehensible only by drawing on the ideas and methods of many scientific disciplines.
Several educators said in interviews that pulling all that off in U.S. schoolhouses will be no small task.
Many states are likely to adopt the guidelines over the next year, but it could be years before the guidelines are translated into detailed curriculum documents and specific lesson plans, teachers are trained or retrained in the material and centralized tests are revised.
And all of this has to happen at a time when state education departments and many local schools are under severe financial strain.
''You can't do education on the cheap,'' said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland-based group that counters efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution and climate science. ''Teachers are going to need some help in mastering this approach.''
Bay Area News Group staff writer Dana Hull contributed to this story.
Next generation science standards
Among the highlights of the Next Generation Science Standards:
1. The standards identify content and science and engineering practices that all students should learn from kindergarten to high school graduation and take into account the latest research on how students best learn science.
2. The standards call for introducing the science of climate change into the curriculum starting in middle school, and teaching high school students in detail about the effects of human activity on climate. The guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution. 3. The development of the standards was led by several states, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and others. California is among the states expected to adopt the standards.
For more information, go to: http://www.nextgenscience.org/MEDIA ALERT
By Chris Kenrick
Palo Alto Weekly Staff
Uploaded: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:49 AM
Concerns about new state standards in mathematics on the horizon for 2014 attracted 300 local educators to a gathering Tuesday to explore the potential impact.
Phil Daro, an education consultant and former math teacher who co-authored the math portion of the Common Core State Standards, said the standards are based on research into math education in high-performing countries such as Singapore and Japan.
The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 46 states including California, will change the sequencing of mathematics instruction as well as California's standardized testing system.
Rather than being ''a mile wide and an inch deep,'' Daro said the new standards make math ''more coherent'' and will lead to deeper understanding and success for more students while preserving acceleration options for top students.
''We spread out Algebra 1 over two years because we introduce new geometry and more substantial treatment of study of functions … than had been done before in Algebra 1,'' he said.
''It's much meatier, which is also what they do in Singapore, Japan and other high-performing countries.''
Daro and fellow panelist Bill Honig, who was California's Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 1980s, said California's recent emphasis on eighth-grade Algebra 1 ''regardless of readiness'' has led to high failure rates.
But Ze'ev Wurman, a Palo Alto resident and former member of the State Academic Content Standards Commission, pointed to data showing that, while many fail algebra, the push for eighth-grade Algebra 1 has produced higher rates of math achievement overall.
''Everybody spoke of students that failed, and many did fail,'' Wurman said.
''However, what about the many successful students, and the minority students who were the prime beneficiaries of this? We did a much better job in California of (more students taking and mastering algebra). It's a major change, and nobody acknowledges it.''
''Basically the signal we're getting now is, 'Slow down, guys. Don't push the kids. They're not ready.'''
Panelists agreed that careful placement -- including preserving acceleration options for top students -- will be critical under the new standards.
Educators said they are worried about how their schools will be measured and held accountable during the period of transition to the new standards.
''We're doing 'Ready, shoot, aim' again and we're not really sure what the target is,'' said Jackie Jorejs, Superintendent of the K-8 Union School District in San Jose.
''From the ground it's a little fuzzy and ambiguity abounds. We're in an era of high-stakes accountability and it's not definitive yet what the testing is going to be and what the students are going to be held accountable for, and that is something we worry about.''
Horejs said she's also concerned about preserving a path for top students who now complete algebra in seventh grade and geometry in eighth grade.
''There's not a lot of conversation about what's going to happen to those students, and to say we're not going to meet the learning needs of those who are ready -- that's not realistic.''
''Our parents would take exception with that. I'd be concerned about their ability to vote with their feet to charter schools and private schools that will offer a much more traditional trajectory for the highest-performing students, and we'll have to contend with that,'' the superintendent said.
The Common Core State Standards are an initiative of the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers.
Tuesday's panel discussion, held at a Microsoft auditorium in Mountain View, was convened by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which focuses on raising student performance in math and science.
By Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.) and Muhammed Chaudhry, president and CEO, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, San Jose - 03/25/13 10:00 AM ET
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/290091-stepping-up-stem-programs-in-our-schools-will-make-us-more-competitive#ixzz2OmLK84sl
Creative, out-of-the-box thinking and collaborative problem-solving are concepts synonymous with Silicon Valley. They are attributes that power our industry, motivate our work ethic and define our can-do spirit. Ironically, these skills are often missing when it comes to educational policies and mandates imposed on our local public schools. The result: It is not perceived as a priority for the future workforce of America.
We hear time and again from our local business and community leaders that local jobs go unfilled by local talent because they can't find people with the required education and skills to perform these duties. These jobs run across the spectrum: from technicians with a trade school certificate to engineers with a master's degree.
That is why we've been pushing an agenda based on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
We believe that students in our local schools, who have been exposed to a rich diet of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will have the foundational knowledge and skills to flourish in the classroom and beyond.
Here's an overview of the problem: If a school district focuses only on performing well on a high-stakes California state test, an opportunity to experience and make applications in science, engineering design and computer science is lost. Rote memorization of facts and figures is over-valued. Our students' school experience, consequently, becomes a test prep factory, a setting devoid of meaningful human interaction and richer curricular connection. A child's spirit of wonder and intrigue becomes a sterile test score result.
To fix this problem, we both have STEM initiatives that continue the push to provide excellent STEM programming into our schools. At the local and regional level, Silicon Valley Education Foundation has two innovative school programs: one is called Stepping Up to Algebra and the other is Stepping Up to Science. These two programs prepare local students to find success in eighth-grade algebra – the "gateway" math course – and their first college-track science course in the ninth grade.
More than 4,000 Silicon Valley youths have participated in our program. Mastering eighth-grade algebra has long been acknowledged as the single best predictor of success in college. Despite this factor, California has abandoned its longtime policy urging schools to place eighth-graders in Algebra I. We believe that Silicon Valley Education Foundation programs have helped children find success in mathematics with the help of educators.
At the national policy level, Stepping Up to STEM and the Elementary Educator STEM Content Coach are the latest legislative efforts by Rep. Michael Honda, D-San Jose. The first bill establishes an Office of STEM Education, which will serve a vital role in promoting excellence in education and securing American competitiveness in the workplace.
By providing support to states, the bill helps STEM Networks take the lead in shaping best practices, with input from local teachers, businesses, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders. The bill also provides grant funding to outside entities to develop educational technology innovations, including data analytic tools that will help school districts with reporting requirements under federal accountability mandates.
The second bill creates a cohort of elementary teachers in our local schools who are steeped in STEM content knowledge and skilled in integrating the STEM disciplines into other curricular areas and real-life situations. Building a firm STEM foundation in the earliest grades will have an impact on a child's future learning trajectory – especially now, when schools are abandoning science and other ''nonessential'' topics in order to prepare for state tests.
California offers a successful example of how a state STEM network, the California STEM Learning Network, leverages public and private partnerships to increase STEM resources within the public schools. By working collaboratively together, the California network partners with various organizations, both public and private, to bring enhanced science programming to the school communities. In addition, the networks develop strategies to increase participation of underrepresented populations in STEM disciplines.
Silicon Valley should lead the state in excellent school programming. Innovation and out-of-the-box thinking are the economic engines that drive our business community. Yet, we find it ironic that what is seen as exemplary in the business community is undervalued in school policy.
In the collaborative, innovative spirit of our Silicon Valley, we invite you to share our vision of creating educational opportunities for each and every student in American public schools. Silicon Valley offers a prime example to the nation of how a community's vision, regional philanthropic giving, state STEM networks, and coordinated federal policies can push forward excellent school programming.
It's time to step up to STEM: the competitiveness of our economy demands it and the children within our community deserve it.
Honda is a former educator, represents Silicon Valley and serves on the House Appropriations Committee. Chaudhry is president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation in San Jose.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/290091-stepping-up-stem-programs-in-our-schools-will-make-us-more-competitive#ixzz2OmLb878O
By Paul Humphries and Manny Barbara
Special to the Mercury News
Posted: 03/21/2013 03:46:10 PM PDT
Updated: 03/21/2013 03:46:17 PM PDT
The subject of when to introduce algebra has for years been one of education's thorniest debates, and the California board of education's recent shift away from promoting Algebra I in eighth grade -- a 15-year-old policy -- has intensified the discussion.
We worry the board's decision will send the message that expectations for students are being lowered. But we also believe the state board's action is being misunderstood to mean that students should not take Algebra I in eighth grade, and that there won't be an accelerated option as part of the new Common Core state standards being implemented beginning in 2014.
On the contrary, board members have stressed that the new policy does not eliminate the option for algebra in eighth grade. Students can still choose it if they are ready, and educators must continue to encourage it.
As longtime proponents of early algebra, we don't want to see the state standards watered down. But we feel confident that California can continue to ensure that all students who are ready for Algebra I in eighth grade have access to the class.
Here's why this matters so much: If a student masters Algebra I in eighth grade, he or she can then take geometry in ninth grade, Algebra II in 10th grade, pre-calculus in 11th grade and calculus in 12th grade. These are the courses that open the doors to top-tier colleges.
Taking Algebra II in particular is a must for students to complete the requirements, known as A-to-G, needed for entry to the University of California and California State University campuses. A student can complete the A-to-G requirements without mastering Algebra I in eighth grade, but there's greater likelihood of success when a student does so. California's new standards were designed to line up with the national Common Core math standards, adopted by 48 states, which do not include the expectation of Algebra I in eighth grade. They recommend taking algebra when a student is ready.
Many students will, in fact, be ready to take Algebra I by eighth grade. That's why the criteria schools and districts use to determine student access to the course are so crucial. Districts need to have clear and objective criteria for placement based on multiple measures, including data like test scores, as well as grades and teacher recommendations. Otherwise, they risk misplacing students and inadvertently thwarting their college options.
The years-long push for Algebra I in eighth grade has made a difference in California. Enrollment for African-American and Latino students skyrocketed over the decade, as did proficiency.
However, only 40 percent of Latino and African-American students in grade 8 algebra showed proficiency in the subject after taking the class. Clearly, at least some of these kids weren't ready to take the course.
So if early introduction is to be successful, students need tools to succeed. That's why the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which has led the early algebra initiative, created Stepping Up to Algebra. This summer program has successfully prepared 4,000 struggling math students entering eighth grade for Algebra I. We have made great strides; we don't want to risk losing that momentum.
If California is serious about restoring schools to the nation's top ranks and investing in the future workforce, academic preparation and rigor at a younger age need to be part of the equation. While Common Core standards are expected to provide that rigor, they do not preclude exposing students who are ready to Algebra I in eighth grade. Exposing more students raises the academic bar for all.
Paul Humphries is chairman of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation board of directors and an executive at Flextronics. Manny Barbara is SVEF vice president and retired superintendent of the Oak Grove School District. They wrote this for this newspaper. SVEF (svefoundation.org) will host a discussion of this topic Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at Microsoft's Mountain View campus.
By Carol Rosen, Correspondent
Posted: 03/21/2013 08:03:55 PM PDT
Updated: 03/21/2013 08:03:55 PM PDT
Xavier De La Torre's office offers a picture of an educated man with a long list of achievements. His walls and shelves provide glimpses into the schools he's attended and where he's taught, coached and administered, as well as trophies, plaques and a golden bell to announce the honors he and his schools have won.
De La Torre, who took the job as Santa Clara County superintendent of schools last summer, earned those honors and achievements through a mixture of hard work and innovative leadership. He's come here to further those achievements by following the directive of the San Jose Silicon Valley 2020 Initiative to eliminate public schools' achievement gap.
That program, launched in 2009 by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Charles Weis, De La Torre's predecessor, is designed to provide the basis for ensuring that every public school student receives the support and education leading to college and workplace success through the collective resources of the society around them--government, business and philanthropic foundations.
It focuses on the diverse population of students across the county, providing for school readiness for preschoolers and continuing through to college and career readiness.
''Mayor Reed introduced the idea in cooperation with local select districts, civic leaders, representatives from high- and biotechnology companies and organizations including philanthropic foundations to eliminate the academic achievement gap,'' De La Torre says.
''There are too many students who don't have good opportunities in school. This program's elements expand preschool early learning experiences, especially for those kids from the most economically depressed areas of the city.''
De La Torre says it's important for preschools to provide kindergarten readiness as opposed to daycare. He cites a number of resources, such as the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, that invest in students and have seen a return on their investment in the form of academic achievement.
The county's board of education is working to provide an early learning initiative for all children in the county, says Joseph Di Salvo, a trustee and former president of the county board of education. "We want to provide a high-quality universal preschool. Los Angeles has one, San Francisco has one and President Obama wants to have one for the entire county.
''That's one of the reasons we hired Xavier, because he's bold and creative and willing to work with all the school district superintendents,'' says Di Salvo. "Dr. X was the best fit for the position; he's committed to our children in the county office and steadfast in his commitment to serving the district in an efficient and effective manner," says Grace Mah, current president of the board.
''I think he's doing an outstanding job representing the educational needs for the county,'' says Muhammed Chaudhry, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. ''He has an understanding of the needs of education that combines well with his hands-on experience working on eliminating the achievement gap.''
''There's already an expectation that schools prepare students for their high school diplomas, but we want these students to succeed past secondary schools into colleges, universities and vocational and training schools to fully succeed and reach their potential,'' De La Torre says.
In today's world, a high school diploma is just the beginning, he says, since high schools don't teach the skills necessary for this century's occupations.
While acknowledging an achievement gap among African American and Hispanic students--many of whom don't have the same early learning opportunities as their fellow students--De La Torres recognizes a second, more obscure gap, one that has the highest-performing students succeeding, but only at the necessary levels because much of the time, these students aren't being challenged to do their best. ''There are cases where attention to the lowest-performing students leads to school inattention to the top performers,'' he says.
''The idea is to challenge all students and provide promise for academic and holistic growth. Lots of students are bored to tears; they aren't receiving the appropriate education and experience they need to grow every day. Instead, they disengage and perform at less than the level they're capable of because it's not a priority,'' De La Torre says.
De La Torre has had success in closing academic achievement gaps elsewhere. In 2009, he took over as superintendent of the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. The district has some 45,000 students attending 27 elementary, eight middle and six high schools. Some of its students cross the Mexican border daily to attend district schools.
The school district has a large Hispanic population, and 73 percent of its students come from economically disadvantaged homes compared with a 55 percent state average, while 26 percent have limited English proficiency compared with 17 percent statewide.
''He managed to collaborate with all the different factions in the district and got us all headed in the same direction,'' says Hector Reyna, director of technology services for Socorro.
''He's a collaborator and visionary instructional leader and one of the most intelligent people I've ever worked with,'' says Cynthia Lopez, Socorro's assistant superintendent for secondary education.
The district was a finalist for the Broad Prize in 2009 and 2010. The prize is awarded to large urban school districts with the largest improvement in academic performance tied to reducing the achievement gap among poor and minority students. The Broad group noted Socorro's differentiating instruction to meet student needs, interventions at low-performing schools and teacher development and support.
According to Broad's website, Socorro uses ''several complex research-based instructional strategies that provide opportunities to tailor instruction to individual student needs.'' The strategies require teachers to continuously monitor student progress, differentiate instruction and manage multiple groups simultaneously.
While at Socorro, De La Torre says, he worked on strategic planning based on student academic achievement, managed record enrollment growth, helped pass a school facilities bond, introduced and improved internal systems to promote efficiency, effectiveness and accountability and restored public and community trust and confidence in the leadership team.
His career spans 25 years. He started teaching social studies and Spanish and coaching football and baseball at several high schools in Northern and Southern California. From there he moved into the administrative sector as assistant principal and later as a principal opening a new high school.
That job and his education led him to become an associate superintendent of personnel for human resources before joining Socorro in 2009 as superintendent, where he earned about $285,000 annually. He came to Santa Clara County in June, accepting the county superintendent job for $298,000 a year, about 10 percent less than his predecessor's $330,000 salary.
The county superintendent's office provides charter school oversight, communications, data and statistics, evaluation, research analysis, and planning and support to school districts and the county office of education.
De La Torre has a bachelor's degree in social science with a minor in Spanish from California State University at Chico, where he also received his California teaching credential. He graduated summa cum laude with a master's in educational leadership from the University of San Francisco. He received a professional administration services credential from the California Commission on Teachers' Credentials and a superintendent's certificate from the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. He has a doctorate in education policy and administration from UC-Davis.
Although he loved the job at Socorro, he came back to California for the challenge of San Jose Silicon Valley 2020 and to be closer to his family. He grew up in Weed as the oldest of four children, all of whom became professionals. One brother is an attorney, another is a vice president at Blue Shield and his sister is a CPA.
De La Torre's parents immigrated to California from Guadalajara, leaving their work and their families, determined that their children would be educated in American public schools. His mother became an American citizen, his father a permanent resident. ''My father often worked double shifts in a lumber mill. My mother became an instructional aid at school to learn to speak, read and write English. We recognized the sacrifices they made every day on our behalf,'' he says.
All four children were put through college by their parents. ''Their job was to take care of the costs; ours was to do well academically,'' he said. ''It turned our lives around. It provided us the opportunity for a quality of life my parents couldn't have and gave me the ability to become a passionate advocate for public education.''
De La Torre and his wife have five children, one in college, one in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary school. The oldest is 22 and the youngest is 5. Sports is one of his passions. You can tell by walking into his office, where there are pictures and posters from some of the football and baseball teams he coached. One of the most prominent is the picture showing the 2009 Texas 5A baseball champions--the Socorro High Bulldogs.
For Immediate Release
February 21, 2013
Connie Skipitares, SVEF
SILICON VALLEY EDUCATION FOUNDATION RECEIVES $40K FROM FLEXTRONICS FOUNDATION
Funds to Go to “Stepping Up to Algebra” Summer Program
SAN JOSE, CA – To help more students who struggle with middle school math and reach for college, the Flextronics Foundation has given $40,000 to the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to continue offering its ''Stepping Up to Algebra'' intervention program in 2013.
''Stepping Up to Algebra'' (SUTA) is a rigorous four-week program held in summer to boost middle school students’ proficiency in algebra concepts before they head back to regular classes in the fall. The program targets underserved students in 7th and 8th grades who score at or below grade level in math and helps improve their skills. The goal is to get them into college-track math classes in high school, which is the key to getting into top-tier colleges.
SUTA heads into its 6th year in summer 2013. It is offered from June through August and gives students four hours of daily instruction (Monday through Friday) during the four-week course. Nearly 4,000 middle school students across Silicon Valley have taken the summer program since its inception in 2008. Flextronics grant support in its pilot year and in the years since has helped make it the Valley’s most successful summer algebra program.
The SUTA classes will be held in 19 school districts in Silicon Valley, from Mountain View and East and West San Jose to Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Special focus is on reaching for college, with students treated to a field trip to Stanford, Santa Clara and San Jose State universities to experience a college campus first-hand. A technology component offers students time in a computer lab to work on math problems.
The math programs are part of SVEF’s initiative to improve education for underserved children and help close the achievement gap.
''Flextronics has provided us with a terrific gift to continue our work with schools and the community to get more students into college and down the road into successful careers that will help fill the workforce needs of Silicon Valley,'' said SVEF CEO Muhammed Chaudhry.
''Flextronics is committed to supporting efforts to improve education in Silicon Valley and in our communities around the world,'' said Denise Haylor, chief human resources officer at Flextronics. ''We are very proud of our involvement in the Stepping Up to Algebra program as both a member of the inaugural program development team and grant provider since 2008, which has benefitted thousands of middle school students locally.''
The $40,000 grant will go toward funding direct program services, which includes curriculum development costs, classroom materials, student testing and costs of program administration. Flextronics is a long-time supporter of SVEF and has given generously to its many programs and initiatives, including SVEF’s annual fundraiser, Pioneers & Purpose.
Silicon Valley Education Foundation is a non-profit resource and advocate for students, educators and corporate and individual donors. We drive scholastic achievement in the critical areas of math & science by combining resources and partnerships to provide innovative academic programs. We are a catalyst for policy solutions in public education in the region. Our mission is to make Silicon Valley the leader in academically prepared students. For more information, visit www.SVEFoundation.org.
ABC 7 KGO-TV San Francisco, CA
South Bay News
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Growing up in Silicon Valley doesn't necessarily mean every student has access to computers, but a program now in its second year in San Jose is giving students as young as 12 the chance to make their own video games.
''When I really began all this, I was really, really lost because I've never done programming at all,'' Alexander Aguilar told ABC7 News. He aspires to become an automotive engineer someday but his real passion, for now, is video games. For the past five months, he and his fellow Santa Theresa High School senior Santino Santos have been learning how to plan, program, design, and produce a video game.
1,100 San Jose students are participating in a program called ''Globaloria'' and Wednesday was their day for them to show off their work. The goal is to foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and math at an early age. ''I started realizing all the stuff that actually went into it from actually making the design of the game by drawing it first and then having to make adjustments and everything, down to the color, making sure everything's right,'' Aguilar said.
Globaloria is sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the Worldwide Workshop, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. ''This taught me so much, whether it be from the extremely hard, challenging programming to the basic stuff like coloring in the background,'' Santos said.
A game Shelby Sandoval created helps teach the difference between bacterial infections and viruses. ''I'm really proud of my game. I went home and showed my whole family and showed all my friends. I'm really proud of it,'' she said. While Sandoval is 15, some of the other students are as young as 12 or 13 including a group at San Jose's Christopher School. They make a 2-year commitment as 7th-graders and their video games are just as engaging as the ones made older students.
Globaloria Silicon Valley Director Shubha Tuljapurkar homes that by engaging students at a younger age, they will help to meet the demand for scientists and engineers. ''There are four million jobs unfilled and these students are going to be the next generation and the future who will be able to fill those jobs,'' Tuljapurkar said.
Some of the students at Christopher School have won awards but on top of that, the principal says the students' grade point averages have gone up by one point in a single year.
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