Superintendent's Update

February 19, 2020


As school cycles go, we are making a push to the home stretch and thoughts are turning to the future. There are many markers that the future is bright for PAUSD. I want to share some of the reasons we should be optimistic from the seat of my position as your Superintendent.

Walking our campuses, I have the opportunity to see joy in the faces of our students and staff. Of course, there are exceptions to every generality. That aside, our schools are overwhelmingly positive and healthy places. Backpacks are placed on outside hooks, kids play together during recess, our student leadership groups are addressing the important topics of secondary life, performances are amazing, and caring adults are guiding our students along the way.

I get the unique opportunity to see our staff in professional development settings. Our middle school math teachers are ALL involved in training together in preparation for some shifts next year. I am positive there is some anxiety, but the packed room was filled with positive attitudes and a mindset that our students can achieve anything with the support of our staff. They are invested in the process and in our students. It is another example of how lucky we are to have dedicated professionals in important positions.

Teams are working across the District to address struggling readers, early literacy, and phonemic awareness. We are having healthy debates about the science of reading and how we may fill some gaps in our programs without starting from scratch. Stakeholders are engaged from every corner with best intentions to help our students learn the skills necessary to navigate a world largely dependent upon the ability to read to learn.

Our employee recruitment pools are becoming more robust with high-quality candidates. This is a good sign connected to the external acknowledgement that we are doing some good work and important indicators are stabilizing. Our Board is narrowing our focus and identifying impactful desired outcomes for our students to be measured over time. For the first time, we are seeing some growth in the historically challenging endeavor to shrink the achievement gap. With plenty of room to grow, it is encouraging to see some pockets of excellence developing around the District that can be replicated in the future.

Our horizon is shaping up nicely. Building upon the past strengths of the District to address gaps is a formula that has worked in other settings. Optimism is a good thing and it is growing in PAUSD!


Join the PAUSD Community for a Day of Learning!

The 2nd Annual PAUSD Parent Leadership Summit is just around the block!

This year, our slogan is “Opening Doors to Student Success and Wellbeing,” and we aim to do just that! We have over 50 sessions to choose from, everything from “10 Tech Tips for Parents,” and “From Anxiety to Resiliency: Family Solutions,” to “How to use Executive Functioning Strategies with your students to complete homework.” This year, our 60+ presenters come from local organizations like the Children’s Health Council, Stanford Medicine, REEL, Social Thinking, CAC, PTAC, PAUSD in many forms, and more!

Saturday, February 22, 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at Gunn High School

Check-In starts at 8:30 a.m., with breakfast and coffee.

Keynote Speaker Jonathan Mooney, author of “Normal Sucks” will begin at 9:00 a.m.

Session 1: 10:00-10:45 a.m.

Session 2: 11:00-11:45 a.m.

Full Lunch provided: 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Session 3: 12:15-1:00 p.m.

Session 4: 1:15-2:00 p.m.

Register Today! And check out the schedule for more sessions

We also need volunteers, if interested Sign-Up Here!


A session has been added just for PAUSD Staff

Culturally Responsive Parent Engagement by Wendy Stratton


Secondary Options programs instruct, guide, and support students and adults as they prepare for and embark on a working life. The program collaborates with many organizations and offers a wide range of opportunities for students and adults. One such program is WorkAbility.

WorkAbility I (for high school students in special education) and WorkAbility II (for adults with disabilities) programs provide comprehensive pre-employment training, employment placement, and follow-up consultations for individuals making the transition to independent living.

WorkAbility is a grant-funded program through the California Department of Education (CDE). PAUSD is a current recipient of the high school grant, through which students are able to access a range of employment and workplace experiences that help them explore a career field and learn important job skills.

In conjunction with WorkAbility, a number of students from Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School had the opportunity last week to see behind-the-scenes employment positions at Oracle Park in San Francisco. It was a great day for all!


The mid-year assessment window for K-5 elementary students reading assessment, Benchmark Assessment System (BAS), closed last week. School sites are preparing to analyze class reading data to better inform their instruction and set reading goals for the remainder of the school year.

In addition to BAS, the kindergarten teachers completed the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen for all kindergarteners using the new universal screening platform. The information collected will merge with the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen data from 1st through 3rd grade. As we forge ahead in creating a plan for those kindergarten students who measured “at-risk” for dyslexia, we continue to provide support for 1st through 3rd grade students and monitor progress. The Reading Specialists will be finalizing the Elementary Dyslexia Screening and Identification Process flowchart at their March meeting. The plan will map out the identification process and supports for students who screen “at-risk” for dyslexia.


On February 6, the Department of Academic Supports met with Palo Alto High School’s Social Justice Pathway sophomores to discuss the achievement gap and how the District is addressing it locally. Topics included: the Tinsley program, first generation students on the pathway to college, and low income supports in the District. Students had many questions and were very engaged in all topics. It was a great way to hear student voices about issues that drive District staff.


The Department of Academic Supports and Professional Learning collaborated to provide a class on case studies in diversity to new certificated staff in January and February. The class consists of two face-to-face meetings with the remainder of the content delivered online. The curriculum included materials from Teaching Tolerance. The book is Case Studies on Diversity and Social Justice Education by Paul Gorski and Seema Pothini. The class is part of a two-year professional learning journey for staff new to PAUSD and is also open to veteran staff who would like to participate.


While healthy eating can be a challenge for some students and parents, 15 elementary students from PAUSD will use their creativity and culinary skills to prepare healthy recipes as part of PAUSD’s Student Nutrition Services and Sodexo’s 2020 Future Chef Competition. This year’s theme is “Reimagine Your Favorite School Lunch Meal.”

PAUSD joins 253 other school districts across the country holding Future Chef events throughout February and March. The winning student and recipe from each participating district will be considered for 40 regional finalist awards, and the regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on

The Future Chef Cook Off Competition will be held on Wednesday, March 4, at the JLS MP/Common Room and Kitchen from 3:00-5:30 p.m.

PAUSD finalists were announced this week and received a chef coat and hat to be worn at the event. Recipe submissions from 10 of the 12 elementary schools were submitted and we have one of the largest finalist groups in our history with the event.


The Special Education Department received the corrective actions from the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding the Disproportionality Review, which was completed in October 2019. The District was asked to review a group of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and determine whether they addressed all components regarding support for English Learners (ELs), including specific EL IEP forms, accommodations, goals, and assessment results. The areas needing corrections were related to assessments in the native language, addressing language needs of ELs, and IEP goals that did not address how language development is supported. The corrective actions mandated by the CDE were to assess in the native language and focus on adding language development in the goals for ELs. The corrective actions were completed and resubmitted to the CDE on January 30, 2020.


In December, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), which accredits and monitors teacher preparation programs, including induction programs, sent notification that programs should disseminate the guidelines to all enrolled candidates. The PAUSD Consortium, which serves teachers in PAUSD, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, and Los Gatos Saratoga School District, has implemented a plan to support mentors and participating teachers in learning about dyslexia guidelines and actually putting them into practice. At the January mentor meeting, several mentors with expertise in dyslexia provided an overview about dyslexia and the origin and contents of the guidelines. The consortium looked at characteristics of dyslexia by age group and engaged in a robust discussion about next steps. Over the next month, mentors will be reading the guidelines and generating ideas about how to share them in a meaningful, accessible manner with PK-12 teachers.


As the Elementary Education Department digs deeper into word study and the “why” for students struggling with reading, we are learning how important it is to have a common understanding of what phonics is, prior to actually teaching phonics. So, what is phonics?

Phonics is the method of teaching beginning readers to connect the sounds of spoken language with letters or a group of letters. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach students the most common sound-spelling relationships, so that they can decode, or sound out words, by blending the sounds of letters together.

Phonics instruction is necessary for children to become skilled, fluent readers. They need to have a repertoire of strategies to draw from. Many struggling readers rely heavily on one reading strategy, such as the use of context and picture clues, to the exclusion of other strategies that might be more appropriate. These strategies include using knowledge of sound-spelling relationships; in other words, an understanding of phonics. In addition, research has shown that skilled readers attend to almost every word in a sentence and process the letters that compose each of these words. Therefore, phonics instruction plays a key role in helping students comprehend text. It helps them map sounds onto spellings, thus enabling them to decode words. Decoding words aids in the development of word recognition, which in turn increases reading fluency. Students can then concentrate on making meaning from the text instead of having to decode words. In addition, phonics instruction improves spelling ability because it emphasizes spelling patterns that become familiar from reading.

This leads us to a common misconception that phonics is the same as phonological awareness. These terms are not interchangeable. Phonological awareness is the awareness of sounds in spoken words, whereas phonics involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. Despite these different focuses, phonics instruction and phonological awareness instruction are connected. In fact, phonological awareness is necessary for phonics instruction to be effective. Before students can use a knowledge of sound-spelling relationships to decode written words, they must understand that words, whether written or spoken, are made up of sounds. Phonological awareness can exist without phonics, but you cannot have phonics without phonological awareness. Without this insight, phonics instruction will not make sense to students. This is something to be mindful of as we continue to support students in becoming successful readers.


On January 29, teachers from Fletcher, Greene, and JLS middle schools gathered at JLS for the second of three Joint Middle School Meetings.

English teachers were updated about the work of the Middle School Literature Committee, which has spent the first semester vetting current PAUSD literature, and will spend the second semester researching and vetting new titles in Young Adult Literature. Staff were encouraged to pass their book recommendations to Committee members. English teachers also debriefed the 6th and 7th grade CWA administrations and determined which revisions to materials might be helpful for next year.

Using existing course catalog and course guide descriptions, History/Social Studies teachers spent their Joint Middle School meeting developing common course guide descriptions for each grade level. These course descriptions will appear in each school’s course catalog next year, and ideally, also in course-alike teachers’ course guides.

Math teachers gathered to discuss how the ongoing redesign of the middle school math program will move some Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics to different grade levels. They analyzed which foundational topics build on something taught in the previous grade and made plans to adjust units and topics accordingly.

Science teachers discussed the formatting options that Amplify Science offers for digital access, a hardbound book, and various workbook configurations. They also made suggestions for how to incorporate additional hands-on experiences into this curriculum, if approved by the Board.

Big picture


SVMI, described as a comprehensive effort to improve mathematics instruction and student learning, is comprised of over 150 members, including school districts, individual schools, and educational organizations in California and across the United States. Mr. David Foster, Founder and Executive Director, spent a day visiting middle school mathematics classrooms. Consultants from SVMI will be working with all middle school mathematics teachers on February 12 and 13 to support District goals in reimagining our middle school math courses. Mr. Foster’s observations informed planning conversations for the upcoming teacher workshops to ensure they are meaningful and that the outcomes will be impactful for student learning.


Henry M. Gunn High School has been recognized for achieving high female representation in AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP). Schools honored with the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award have expanded young women’s access to AP Computer Science courses.

Out of the 20,000 institutions that offer AP courses, 818 achieved this important result during the 2018-19 school year. This represents nearly 20% more than the 685 schools recognized the previous year.

Schools receiving the AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award achieved either 50% or higher female representation in either or both of the AP computer science courses, or the percentage of female computer science examinees met or exceeded that of the school’s female population. Stefanie Sanford, College Board Global Policy Chief, wrote:

"We hope to see even more high schools inspire female students to harness the potential of an AP Computer Science education. It empowers young women to see themselves as creators, innovators, and problem-solvers. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education plays a critical role in fostering a lifelong relationship with learning and setting students on a path to success in a 21st century workforce.

The introduction of AP Computer Science Principles in 2016 was the largest course launch in AP Program history. In 2019, nearly 100,000 students took the AP CSP exam, more than doubling participation in three years. During that time, the number of female AP CSP students has far outpaced overall growth, with an increase of 136%.

Providing female students with access to computer science courses is necessary to ensuring gender parity in high-paying technology jobs and to drive innovation, creativity, and competition. A 2014 Google study found that women are more likely to pursue computer science if they are given the opportunity to explore it in high school."