Dear Bonsall School Community,
We are living in one of the most transformative periods in the history of education in California. The transitions referred to in earlier blog entries continue to come. Also, with unification the Bonsall Union School District has an even greater transformation than all but a few districts in our State. Please keep in mind that change can be messy, there will be glitches with new problems to solve, and mistakes could be made. However, keeping our focus on our recently Board – approved vision/mission for the unified district of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path or college”, we will adapt and thrive in this turbulent time of change in public education. Please understand that “competitive” will be the result of our graduates’ personal practice of the District philosophy of a “Dedication to Continuous Improvement”. There is no more powerful benefit to one’s future than positive competition with past performance.
We have addressed the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in a few earlier posts, but it requires more attention due to a national politically – based opposition effort to prevent the implementation of the CCSS. The opposition is spreading misinformation to create confusion, fear, and anger, the quickest way to prompt action in large groups of people. An example is their contention that the CCSS is created by President Obama and is a federal intrusion into public education. The fact is that the CCSS was an initiative started by the National Governors’ Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers; it is a state led initiative. The American Chamber of Commerce Executives, and the Business Roundtable also strongly support the CCSS in bringing schools more in line with skills required in the highly competitive global economy.
The CCSS is focused on preparing graduates who are college and career ready by placing greater emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. Other 21st century skills like communication, collaboration and creativity are also required in the CCSS. The last blog entry presented the Smarter Balanced Assessment used in the State’s new Measurement of Academic Progress and Performance (MAPP). It is being field tested next spring, sort of a test of the test before it is required in the 2014-15 school year. If you took the practice test referred to in the last blog post, you know it is much more difficult than the California Standards Test! As mentioned before, with the explosion of information in the digital age, it is no longer a great advantage trying to memorize all this information (it’s in a smart phone); what’s important is not how much information you have, but how quickly you access it and what you can do with it.
The new funding model for education in California, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) will also create great change. Given that more funding will be directed towards English learners, and economically disadvantaged students defined as those participating in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, our District is required to update those counts annually and accurately, so it is very important the request for information is filled out and returned to the District. Thanks to the passage of Prop 30 last November, school district budgets were not cut again, but we are only at the level of funding we had in the 2007-08 school year, and are still in a deficit spending mode because personnel costs have increased.
Our special education population continues to increase, and because the Federal government doesn’t fully fund this program we have to meet the mandates with our general fund. Federal funds that come to the District in the form of Impact Aid, for those students connected to Federal properties like military bases or Indian lands, also require critical cooperation in filling out and returning the annual forms that determine the level of funding Bonsall receives to help improve student learning.
Facility funding to begin the New Tech High model next year by adding ninth grade to the Sullivan Middle School site is being applied for. Extra money received to implement the CCSS is to be used for professional development, technology, and instructional materials. New computers for teachers and classrooms are being purchased with this funding, and teacher leaders are attending professional development conferences designed to help all our teachers implement the CCSS. Instructional materials for implementing CCSS are also being reviewed.
Some very good news for the new high school is an invitation from the San Diego County Office of Education for Bonsall to join with the Vista and Coronado Unified School Districts to form a consortium to provide a four-year program for our high schools to offer certification in Information Technologies (IT) systems working with companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and others. Whether a career focused on IT or college bound toward a computer sciences degree, such certifications will definitely make our graduates more competitive in the world’s economy.
A step in this direction will take place during Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013, participating in the free “Hour of Code” trainings available. The link below will give you information on how you or your students may participate.
All this transformation will be difficult, but with continued communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking we will thrive together. The Bonsall school community has an incredible combination of location, timing and a convergence of wonderful people to become a model school district!
Justin Cunningham, Ed D