Drake Direct

Winter Newsletter 2018

Small Learning Communities: Time to Reimagine....

In 1992, Drake High School changed public education. Along with a small group of other ground-breaking reform schools from the 1990's, Drake started on a journey that provided a more relevant and relationship-based educational experience for students. Our Small Learning Communities (SLCs) for the 9th and 10th grade students were a reform movement that provided large schools a structure to organize a group of students with 3-4 teachers in a united team. This structure also provided schools, like Drake, with many cultural benefits around student support, relevant curriculum driven by Project-based Learning and stronger connection to school that is one of the main factors attributed to 9th grade success. This model and commitment of the Drake staff made headlines and is still an educational reform story told across California.


Twenty-five years later, Drake needs to reflect, study and reimagine this foundational approach to our educational model. The staff started this process in fall through a series of studies about the benefits, challenges and values we have in our SLCs. This work will be carried into the spring by a team of Drake staff who will be spearheading this study. Through this team, we will be asking our parents and students for possible survey reposes, participation in focus groups and other ways to solicit input from the larger school community. We understand that the key to improvement is through feedback from our school stakeholders.


While this is a significant undertaking, Drake has the foundations for this work strongly in place. Schools who try to bring in these types of school improvement models can struggle with building the school culture to embrace the change desired....but at Drake, we have this. We need to re-examine what is working well and build upon these strengths and evolve what can be better. There will be more information in January about this work. Please know that we are not making changes in our SLCs for the 2019-20 school year. Hopefully this introduction provided our Pirates with an understanding of the work we are about to embark on. What an exciting year 2019 will be!

AP Test Information

Taking the Advanced Placement (AP) Exams is an important part of all AP courses. Scoring well on an AP exam can earn students college credit for their AP class, saving a significant amount on tuition.

This year, each AP exam costs $104.00. We want every student to be able to take their AP exams. Students requiring financial assistance should contact Hannah Eon (heon@tamdistrict.org) or Mary Chapman (mchapman@tamdistrict.org) to learn more.

For the 2019 AP exams, Sir Francis Drake High School is excited to offer families the convenience of paying exam fees online at the time of registration. This registration will take a few minutes and can be completed from any computer with internet access. Online exam registration begins on Monday, January 14, 2019 at 12:00 AM and ends on Friday, March 1, 2019 at 11:59 PM. We know that parents may want to help register their students for exams. To complete registration, students must answer a set of required questions. We strongly recommend that parents and students are both present while registering to ensure that the correct exams are ordered. Also, please be sure to have a credit card or debit card available before beginning registration. Be on the lookout for more information about the process as the registration date approaches.

Here are the important dates for the registration process:


  • Monday, January 14, 2019 at 12:00 AM - Registration Begins
  • Friday, March 1, 2019 at 11:59 PM - Registration Ends
  • Monday, March 4, 2019 at 11:59 PM - Registrations that have not been paid for will be cancelled and exams will not be ordered.
  • Friday, February 8, 2019 - Last day to cancel an exam and receive a full refund.


Finally, our AP exams depend entirely on parent volunteers to proctor. Each year, our Drake community comes through to ensure that we can test every student who wants the opportunity to take the exam. Please consider being a proctor for our May testing this year. Information with specific test dates and proctoring opportunities will be communicated in March and April. Thank you, in advance, for any time you can offer!

Please contact: Liz Chacón, lchacon@tamdistrict.org, or Mary Chapman, mchapman@tamdistrict.org , if you have any questions.

Course Sign-Ups for 2019-2020

With the budget constraints, we are planning on having a much tighter staffing and course selection process. With this said, we are planning on offering all the courses we have in the past (with a few exceptions based on size of the current courses) to our students. We NEED our students to select the courses they want to take in the next school year and COMMIT. We will not be able to have the numbers of changes in students decisions about course as we have in the past. Once students sign-up for classes in February, they will have the opportunity to check these classes in May and then we will be done with any schedule changes. This is a change in practice and we need our families to understand this and know that when we ask for class sign-up in February and commitment May, we are done. THANK YOU for taking the time to review our courses and make sure your students have signed up and are committed to the classes they choose. The Instructional Guide can be found here. An overview of our electives can be found here. If you have any questions, please see your student's counselor or email Liz Seabury at lseabury@tamdistrict.org.


Basic Scheduling Timeline: (More details will be emailed home about each event)


  • January and February -- Counselors meet with grade levels for scheduling instructions and information
  • January 17 & 18 -- Course Workshops for grades 9-11
  • January 24-February 7 – Course selection completed through home access
  • January 31 – 8th grade registration event
  • April 29-May 3 – student requests posted for review and confirmation
  • May 3 – FINAL commitment to courses for 2019-20 due