36th Annual IUSD Science Fair Feb. 28

IUSD’s 36th annual District Science Fair Open House is Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Portola High School gymnasium (1001 Cadence, Irvine) from 5-6 p.m.  The award ceremony will immediately follow in the Portola High School Theater.

IUSD’s Science Fair gives students, in grades 6-12, an opportunity to showcase their innovative science projects.  Participating students will present a biological, physical, or Rube Goldberg project.

This year’s submissions include an impressive array of projects, including “Fungi Busters,”  “Maximizing Efficiency of a Wireless Energy Power System,” “Human Computer Interaction: Translating English into Code,” and “Bubble Gum Science.”  For a copy of this year’s event program, click here.

Family, friends, community members, IUSD teachers and staff are welcome to attend the open house and award ceremony.

This annual event is graciously sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation, though a STEM grant to Irvine Public Schools Foundation.

Superintendent Walker Delivers State of the District in New Video

Superintendent Terry Walker delivered the State of the Irvine Unified School District in a new video, which can be viewed by clicking here

State of the District topics include:

  • An overview of IUSD’s vision to prepare students for 21st century college and careers.
  • District funding realities, as one of the lowest funded school districts in California, and how IUSD is maximizing investments to best serve our students.
  • New State Standards and IUSD’s instructional strategies.
  • How the District is using technology to enhance and empower students and teachers.
  • IUSD’s facilities, which are designed to foster flexibility, innovation and collaboration.
  • Important District’s partnerships with parents, students and the community, which are critical components of IUSD’s success.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this important video and for your continued investments, engagement, partnership and support of IUSD.

Computer Science Week Dec. 5-11

IUSD is participating in Computer Science (CS) Week, which is designed to inspire students to learn how to code, develop computer science skills, and to be prepared for the digital economy.  For more information, visit code.org100-gb

As part of CS Week, IUSD’s focus is on The Hour of Code, a global event reaching more than 100 million students in more than 180 countries.  The Hour of Code was started three years ago, with the belief that anyone anywhere can learn how to code and that the benefits of coding for students include:

  • Students learn how to check their work for details, apply logic and persist at a task
  • They also learn how to ask a good question, often in written form
  • Students learn how to collaborate, because much programming today is accomplished in teams

For fun coding activities any student can do, visit:

IUSD Opens Portola High School and Beacon Park K-8

As IUSD kicked off the 2016-17 school year on August 24, it opened two new schools; Portola High School, the District’s fifth comprehensive high school, and Beacon Park K-8.  Serving the Great Park Neighborhoods and parts of north Irvine, both schools are state-of-the-art educational facilities designed to foster collaboration, innovation and integration of technology to ensure students are prepared for 21st Century college and career opportunities.

Common features between Portola High School and Beacon Park include:

  • Design Labs – These spaces become easily accessible extensions of classrooms to facilitate small or large group learning and project-based learning.  They also provide students with collaboration skills they will need to be college and career ready.
  • Dedicated Music Classrooms – Such dedicated spaces improve music instruction and student learning with better acoustics and less time to transition from a general use space.
  • Innovation Labs – These labs are designed to foster flexible learning and technology spaces for a variety of projects and various group work.  They create a robust environment for students to learn, collaborate, innovate and brainstorm.
  • Flexible Furniture – Each school site is equipped with flexible furniture, throughout each campus, to foster student-centered learning. This flexibility enables teachers and students to reconfigure their space for large or small group instruction and collaboration.

Both schools have been designed to meet criteria developed by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, which helps establish campuses that are healthy, comfortable, energy efficient and aligned with modern teaching and learning as reflected by IUSD’s Continuous Improvement Efforts.  In addition, many of the features at both schools are designed to mirror innovation and design lab features at such universities as Stanford and UCI.  As IUSD also continues to strengthen our relationships with the business community to ensure our students are prepared for 21st Century careers, we have developed the flexible student-centered spaces to be reflective of innovative workplaces.

Below is a list of features by school site.

IMG_9490Portola High School
This year, Portola High School welcomed approximately 400 freshmen and will add additional classes each year, resulting in a full 9-12 comprehensive high school by 2019-20.  The school is designed to support up to approximately 2,400 students.  In addition to a dedicated team of high-caliber educators, this state-of-the-art facility offers the latest educational technologies and a variety of amenities, including:

  • 21st-Century classrooms with common areas for collaborative learning
  • Dedicated science labs and visual and performing arts classrooms
  • A student union featuring collaborative learning environment, a library with dedicated quiet rooms and an Innovation Lab
  • Design lab for students’“Senior Passion Project” development
  • An elective building that will house a video production studio, 2D and 3D art, acoustically designed music rooms and more
  • A performing arts building with a 720-seat theater, black box and dance studio
  • A special education facility to facilitate essential life skills
  • A green roof that will enable hands-on, sustainable learning
  • A 2,940 seat stadium with rubberized track and artificial turf
  • An aquatics center with a 50-meter pool
  • A 2,044 seat gymnasium that includes training facilities and dedicated team rooms
  • Eight tennis courts
  • Varsity and JV baseball and softball fields
  • Track and field facilities
  • Two full soccer fields

To learn more about Portola High School, visit iusd.org/phs.  Additional resources include:


To view a video of the first day at Portola High School, click here.

Beacon Park K-8
Beacon Park will accommodate approximately 1,000 students at capacity.  Similar to Portola High School, this state-of-the-art campus will also include the latest educational technologies and a variety of amenities including:

  • Student collaboration spaces across all grade levels
  • Dedicated music classrooms
  • Dedicated science classrooms in grades 6-8
  • Innovation Lab
  • Design Lab
  • Parent Center
  • Full-Court Gymnasium
  • Dedicated kindergarten play area
  • Large outdoor play field
  • Hard court activities including handball and tetherball equipment
  • Dedicated fitness lab for students in grades 6-8– Mirrors athletic spaces found at the high school level.

 To learn more about Beacon Park, visit iusd.org/bp

IUSD is pleased to welcome back to school all of our more than 32,000 students and their families and we hope those attending our new schools feel at home as they settle in for a great year ahead.

IUSD to Receive World’s First K-12 High-Speed Network

Kids on ComputerThis week, CENIC Networks announced that it has partnered with the Orange County Department of Education to provide Orange County public schools with the first-ever 100-Gigabit per second K-12 internet connection.  The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) is one of 27 districts to benefit from this ultra-fast network.

IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker, who is the only K-12 superintendent representative on the CENIC Board of Directors and Executive Committee, said of this high-speed network, “It is the equivalent of adding 20 lanes to the 5 Freeway – imagine what that would do for traffic in Southern California. Now, imagine the possibilities for education.”  Superintendent Walker continued, “So much of what we do as educators, to provide our students with real world learning experiences and access to resources, is dependent upon internet connectivity.”

A 100Gb connection will provide IUSD with the limitless ability to dramatically transform how students learn by leveraging technology and internet bandwidth in a way that has never been possible for K-12 schools, until now.  IUSD is uniquely positioned to fully maximize this opportunity due to the ongoing investments the District is making in its technology infrastructure.

Students will have increased access to quality research resources, interactive lessons and video streaming to increase their engagement in science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math.  Such an opportunity will afford our students with experiences found on college campuses and in innovative 21st century careers.

IUSD will continue to manage how technology is integrated into classroom learning and will continue to educate our students about good digital citizenship.  This historical opportunity will ultimately better leverage the human potential of our students, teachers and staff.

To read the full CENIC press release, click here.

IUSD Named Top Five District in Nation for Student Achievement

Technology-Master-PlanAt a time when the achievement gap between low-income students and their affluent counterparts is growing nationwide, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) was named one of the top five districts in the nation to close this gap, by Education Cities.  The nonprofit organization, which recently published the first-ever Education Equality Index tracked data from school districts in the 100 largest U.S. cities.  According to the organization’s website, “the index score is calculated by identifying the percentage of students from low-income families that reach proficiency averaged across every subject/grade.”

“IUSD and our dedicated teachers and staff continuously work to improve how we deliver the highest quality education we can envision,” said Superintendent Terry Walker.  “The recognition that IUSD is providing educational equity for all students is another piece of powerful evidence of our significant accomplishments in support of students.”

IUSD has made student intervention and a commitment to supporting the individual needs of students a critical focus.   Intervention work includes training teachers to assess student performance and to identify the necessary resources and strategies to maximize student learning. To support our learners in reading, the District utilizes targeted small group instruction to assess students as they are learning and to provide increased rigor or greater support during lessons.  This kind of differentiation ensures that teachers monitor student needs and intervene appropriately.

In addition, IUSD integrates evidence based intervention with the support of highly trained intervention lead teachers and intervention psychologists.    Our increased focus on intervention began seven years ago, and continues to be an integral part of our practice.   Meeting the needs of each student, encouraging student voice and generating greater levels of authentic engagement are integral components of our practice.

IUSD believes that our robust science, technology engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programming for all students as part of their daily instruction also supports student success.   These opportunities could not exist without our gifted and committed Instructional staff who enable IUSD to reduce class size and individualize instruction. The addition of classified support staff enables teachers to work more closely with students and facilitates effective small group instruction.

Support staff includes:

  • Instructional Aides are an effective part of IUSD’s current strategy to reduce class size and increase individualized instruction.
  • Teachers on Special Assignment, who perform a wide variety of tasks designed to support classroom instruction based on the needs expressed by teachers and school sites.
  • Science and Technology Coaches, who support teachers and students on meaningful integration of technology in classroom activities.
  • Intervention Lead Teachers, who monitor students in need of additional support.
  • Intervention Psychologists, who design and provide effective intervention and intervention training.
  • Health and Wellness Staff, including school psychologists, counselors, guidance paraprofessionals and guidance assistants.

Visit, iusd.org to learn more about IUSD programs and initiatives. To read the Ed Source article, “Achievement gaps in Irvine, San Francisco are among smallest of US cities,” click here.


More than 230 IUSD Students to Participate in Student Invention Competition

On Saturday, January 30, more than 230 Irvine Unified School District students in kindergarten through eighth grade will participate in the Layout 1Astounding Inventions Competition at Irvine Valley College (5500 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine) from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.  The competition showcases innovative student inventions, spanning a wide range of topics, including:

Conservation of Natural Resources Safety
Smart Sprinkler
Recycling Shower
Ocean Trash Zapper
Solar Umbrella Tree
Bicyclist Collision Alert Helmet
Emergency Pet Collar
Convenience Entertainment
Ultimate Sticky Pencil
Auto-Height Chair
Lego Sorter Vacuum
Automatic Slow Feeding Dog Feeder
Virtual Swim Goggles
Wii Surfboard
Levitating Car
Health and Fitness  
Easy Sneezy
SmartShoe D300
Bacteria Pinpointer
Scrape Preventer Spray

Event Schedule:

  • 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Public Viewing of Student Inventions
  • 1:00 p.m. Awards Ceremony: Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8
  • 2:15 p.m. Awards Ceremony: Grades 4 and 5

Event Details:

O.C. Register laptop program helps bring 140 Chromebook computers to IUSD

You may have already heard about the Orange County Register’s laptop program, which enables supporters of local schools to dispatch a Chromebook to their favorite K-12 campus every time they purchase a new annual subscription to the newspaper.

Well, thanks to that program — forged from a unique partnership involving the Register, FivePoint Communities and the Orange County Department of Education — 140 Samsung Chromebooks are on their way to classrooms in Irvine.

Chromebook donationIUSD Superintendent Terry Walker personally took delivery of the boxed-up computers at the District Office on Thursday, Nov. 13 during a brief ceremony that featured FivePoint Communities President and CEO Emile Haddad; FivePoint Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim; Aaron Kushner, CEO of Freedom Communications, which publishes the Register; and Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools.

“This donation aligns with our district’s ongoing efforts to use technology to increase student engagement while maximizing the time and talents of our staff,” Walker said. “We are extremely grateful to the Orange County Register, Freedom Communications and FivePoint Communities for putting these resources in the hands of students.”

The Register has now donated more than 600 Chromebooks to 75-plus schools in Orange County since launching its laptop program in September 2013. The latest batch was made possible by FivePoint Communities, which is gifting newspaper subscriptions to new homebuyers in Irvine’s Pavilion Park — and allowing residents to decide which schools get the accompanying laptops.

“Two of our founding principles are learning and connecting,” CEO Haddad said. “This program motivates Orange County’s students and our dedicated teachers to achieve both.”

For those unfamiliar with Chromebooks, they’re cloud-based systems with solid-state drives, making them quick to power up when they’re needed. Because IUSD schools already have WiFi access, they can be used in most classrooms, allowing students to fulfill assignments in programs such as Google Apps and the Chrome browser. They can also be used to take the new web-based assessments aligned with the state’s instructional standards.

The Register’s Kushner said Chromebooks have the capability to enhance interactions with students while promoting technological proficiency.

“To the extent that we as a community can connect to one another, and unlock students’ passion for learning,” he said, “the ultimate outcome will be improving and strengthening our communities.”

Set to be divvied among 18 sites, IUSD’s Chromebooks are helping to move educators away from the traditional “computer lab” mindset toward an environment where technology can be deployed anywhere and anytime, Superintendent Walker said.

“Historically, if a teacher has wanted her students to conduct research or write papers, she has had to reserve a computer lab weeks in advance,” he said. “With Chromebooks, teachers are able to wheel them in on a cart and work seamlessly in their classroom environment.”

“It is wonderful to see the community coming together to enhance our schools’ online capabilities by supporting the laptop program,” added county Superintendent Mijares. “Technology facilitates how students can learn, collaborate and apply their knowledge toward complex subjects. The laptop program is a wonderful extension of our vision to lead the nation and the world in how we integrate technology into Orange County’s classrooms.”

Uni High team earns grant funding to invent aerial search-and-rescue system


A team of University High students has been awarded $9,680 in grant funding to develop an aerial search-and-rescue prototype capable of locating lost hikers. Seriously. It’s all part of a unique program that encourages high schoolers to solve real-world problems with technological solutions. 

Uni is one of just 15 high schools nationwide to secure funding for its Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam this year. Founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, the Lemelson-MIT program aims to inspire the next generation of inventors and promote economic growth.

Uni High science teacher and STEM coach Tinh Tran describes the program as “the ultimate in STEM project-based learning instruction.”

“There are no predetermined answers,” Tran said. “Where the project goes depends on hard work, skill, smarts and a bit of luck.”

“The team will likely experience many failures along the way and students will learn that it’s okay to fail – failure is an integral part of innovation,” he said. “By working in this type of learning environment, the students develop and practice 21st Century skills needed in a world that values collaboration, initiative, perseverance, flexibility, empathy, curiosity and creativity.

Tran began the InvenTeam application process last spring and even attended a training at MIT in June to refine his school’s entry. Months later, a panel that included educators, researchers, MIT alumni and former Lemelson-MIT award winners judged the proposals and named Uni among this year’s grantees. 

With almost $10,000 in funding, Tran will lead of group of 15 students in developing a high-tech system for locating lost hikers and others who go missing in wilderness areas. According to the proposal, the Uni invention will create an autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, a mobile data-receiving base station and a distress-signal-emitting radio wristband, and all of those components will be able to talk to one another.

“The InvenTeams program represents the future,” said Leigh Estabrooks, Lemelson-MIT’s invention education officer.  “We place an emphasis on STEM-focused projects to develop interest in these fields among youth. With InvenTeams, our primary goal is to foster high school students’ passion for invention, in turn inspiring them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math.”

Along with other local companies and organizations, Uni’s InvenTeam — or UNInvenTeam, as they’re calling themselves — is partnering with OC Makerspace, a company that offers community members a creative space to work on projects and connect with professionals.

The Uni students will develop their Aerial Wilderness Distress Monitor and Search System over the next nine months, and in June they plan to showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest, a multi-day event held at MIT with activities designed to inspire youth and encourage creativity and problem-solving.

“The student inventors and I are absolutely thrilled and feel incredibly honored to have received an InvenTeam grant,” Tran told the NewsFlash. “The work we put in over the summer to research, brainstorm ideas, gather feedback from intended beneficiaries and prepare the final application really paid off. Now we get to have fun, because inventing is just plain fun.”

Q&A: IUSD’s director of education technology talks latest classroom innovations

Kris LinvilleIf you want to know all about the latest instructional technologies being used in the Irvine Unified School District, Kris Linville is your go-to guy.

He’s the district’s director of educational technology, and he leads a tech-savvy team of educators and specialists dedicated to enhancing classrooms with tools that maximize the time and talents of IUSD’s teachers. He’s also a former teacher who spent 11 years at Sierra Vista Middle School, leading video production and web design courses.

At the risk of feeling like we attended school in the Dark Ages, we recently caught up with Linville, a former IUSD Teacher of the Year, to talk about the latest developments in Ed Tech, including a new web-based system designed to revolutionize classroom-to-home communication.


So, what’s new and exciting in Ed Tech?
Well, for Irvine Unified, what’s new and exciting is we are implementing a program called Canvas, which is a course management solution, or CMS.

Canvas is going to be a way for a teacher to communicate with students and parents at home by essentially having a website where they can post announcements and course documents, and where they can host collaborations and discussion boards. That teacher could also do some form of flipped teaching, which is where they record a video of themselves and present it as an online lesson for their students.

What’s nice about Canvas is that it’s not some open website that anyone can go to. Previously, if a teacher had a worksheet that they made a copy of, they could never publish that on a public website. But because this is closed, if a teacher has permission for that worksheet to be handed out to students, they’re actually allowed to host it on their website. So you can imagine a kid who forgot their worksheet, or maybe the parents want to see what’s happening in the class. There’s also a nice calendar feature. A teacher could actually go in, put down all of their assignments, field trips, any major activities happening and it’s set up in the calendar so that students can be notified.

At the high school level, there are some nice mobile apps, so if a student has a smartphone or an iPad they actually can be notified on those devices, and they don’t need to have a home computer to look at the homework or anything like that. They can actually access those files on their smartphones or tablets.

How will Canvas benefit IUSD students?
We’re finding that school-to-home communication through a product like this is allowing students to be more successful because their parents can be more involved with what they’re learning, and then also teachers are responding to fewer individual emails because they’re actually able to communicate more effectively to a broader audience.

With social media that’s available nowadays, students are already going to websites like Facebook and conferencing and collaborating with their peers. They’ll ask, “What’s due in this class?” or “Is anyone else having problems with No. 3?” And teachers don’t have a problem with that – it would be the same as if I went to your house and said, “Let’s do homework together.” So the next thing is, instead of it being on a public site that’s data-mining your information and where we don’t have the same way of regulating off-topic comments and pictures, we are now housing all of this on Canvas. So a teacher might have a video conference for 40 or 50 students the night before a final exam to answer questions. Meanwhile, it’s closed and compliant with the Family Education Rights Privacy Act and the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

How is this being rolled out?
We had a program before the school year started where we trained teachers. We are also offering monthly Canvas trainings, and we’re getting asked by specific sites to go out and do trainings. Of the courses that have been set up in Canvas, we have well over 50 percent of our teachers using it, and for the month of September we had 13,000 kids log in to use this, out of 32,000. That adoption rate is actually faster than we thought it would be.

And it’s not just being used at the elementary level or K-12. Harvard just adopted Canvas, and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is using it as well. That’s one of the reasons that our secondary teachers wanted Canvas; they wanted to have a product that when the kids graduated from high school, they would have that similar feel at the college level.

Again, we’ve used products similar to this, but the power of having Canvas as our district-supported CMS is that all the kids are in there. Students don’t have to create new accounts for each class with separate logins. Each teacher’s classes are already generated, and students’ logins and passwords are the same ones that they would use to get on district computers. It’s all synced together.

What about parents with multiple students in the district?
It’s just one login for each parent. You’ll be linked to your children in the district, and you can see the calendars specific to each student.

Last time we spoke, we talked about the “Bring Your Own Device” movement, or BYOD, which encourages students to use their smartphones, tablets and laptops at school. Is there still momentum for this type of program in Irvine?
Yes. In fact, we just upgraded the bandwidth of all the sites, so elementary and middle schools are now at 500 megabits-per-second and the high schools are up to one gigabit-per-second. By upgrading the bandwidth, now when we start updating all the Wi-Fi, which we’re doing across the district, then that opens the door for BYOD.

Until the bandwidth and the Wi-Fi are set up, we will struggle with BYOD because even though a principal might be on board and say, “I’m OK with kids bringing their own devices,” there’s no point in bringing a device if it can’t connect. And we still see that problem where we go to a site and a teacher is very excited about a lesson and there are issues with student connectivity. The goal of our IT department is to make it feel seamless, the same way that you can go into an airport or a coffee shop, the same way you have 3G on your device and no matter where you go now you should be able to jump on and do some research and find information. That’s how we want our kids to feel when they’re at school. That being said, our goal at the high school level is to go BYOD probably within a year.

As a former classroom teacher, what value do you think technology brings to instruction?
I think technology has the power to elevate classroom engagement, allowing students to use all of their senses. You can go on Google and visit The Louvre and actually explore the museum and see a 360-degree panorama view. Things that couldn’t be done before are now possible with technology. We have teachers who are connecting with other classes across the U.S. We’ve had authors reach out and talk to classes with a video connection, and it’s all because of technology. These lessons contribute to a different level of student engagement, and adaptive assessments help to personalize instruction.

What we’re trying to move away from is technology being icing on the cake — and something that only certain teachers know how to do — to it being an ingredient in the cake. For that to happen, our infrastructure and our broadband and all of those things need to work seamlessly.

I understand the new computer-based state assessments tied to the Common Core standards are heavily reliant on a technology infrastructure. Is IUSD prepared for those?
Yes. Last year was the pilot for the new adaptive assessments, and bandwidth wasn’t an issue for our sites. We also had a lot of staff training on how to use it. I think our previous assessment coordinator, Irene Brady, did a great job, and now we have Alyssa Honeycutt in that role, and our district is prepared for the tests this year.

Lastly, how do Ed Tech’s goals align with the new Common Core standards?
If you look at some of the new standards, technology is in there. For instance, a standard might focus on presentation skills and might specifically say that the student has to use some type of media or technology to present. So, if the kids are being asked to do that as part of a standard, we have to make sure that teachers feel comfortable doing that. The big approach for Ed Tech is we need to look at Common Core and determine how many of these standards tap into using technology, and we have to make sure that teachers feel confident and comfortable using that technology.