UC, CSU and community colleges affirm their support for Common Core

Implementation of the new Common Core standards “has the potential to dramatically improve college readiness and help close the preparation gap that exists for California students,” say the state’s major systems of higher education.

In a joint letter sent to the California State Board of Education just a few weeks ago, the leaders of the University of California, the California State University system, California Community Colleges and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities affirmed their support of the new standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do in reading and mathematics from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

CommonCoreLOGO (1)“The Common Core standards provide teachers and districts a roadmap to developing courses that cultivate the deep understandings required for college preparation,” the Aug. 29 letter says. “In concert with this transition, the a-g requirements for CSU and UC admission, specifically areas ‘b’ (English) and ‘c’ (Mathematics), have been updated to align with the Common Core standards and the message is being transmitted to schools, parents and students.”

Meanwhile, the state’s colleges and universities say they’re also making sure that their teacher preparation programs and administrator leadership academies reflect the new standards. You can read the full letter here.

In 2010, the California Legislature added provisions to the state Education Code that set the stage for adoption of Common Core. Implementation began in 2013-14 and is continuing this year.

Like the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, IUSD has also embraced the new standards, in large part because they align with the district’s own Continuous Improvement Efforts.

Under Common Core, hands-on activities and collaborative exercises will be much more prevalent, and there’s been a shift toward nonfiction texts. Media skills will also be integrated into everyday lessons, writing will be shared with outside audiences and next-generation assessments will evaluate higher order processes.

Math classes will teach fewer concepts, but they will reach new depths in exploring those concepts. Students will be challenged with more real-world applications and fewer theoretical equations, and there will be a greater emphasis on learning the process rather than merely providing the correct answer.

For a primer on Common Core math, we recommend this recent column that ran in USA Today. The author is Solomon Friedberg, who chairs the math department at Boston College and is editor of a book series called “Issues in Mathematics Education.”

According to Friedberg, math has often been taught as a set of rules rather than concepts. But that’s changing.

Kids learn in elementary school that you can “add a zero to multiply by ten.” And it’s true, 237 x 10 = 2370. Never mind why. But then when kids learn decimals, the rule fails: 2.37 x 10 is not 2.370. One approach is to simply add another rule. But that’s not the best way.

Common Core saves us from plug-and-chug. In fact, math is based on a collection of ideas that do make sense. The rules come from the ideas. Common Core asks students to learn math this way, with both computational fluency and understanding of the ideas.


Again, you can read his column here. And for more information on Common Core in IUSD, check out the district’s Common Core webpage.

City program to offer emergency response training for parents of school-age kids

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month?

We didn’t either. But now’s certainly a good time for families, schools and businesses to revisit their emergency plans, stock up on supplies and seek out best practices.

CERT Training FlierSpeaking of which, the City of Irvine’s Community Emergency Response Team — or CERT — is offering an upcoming 11-session training program for moms and dads of school-age children. The hands-on course, focusing on such topics as personal and family preparedness, fire suppression, first aid and light search and rescue, will be held from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Oct. 7 and concluding Nov. 11.

The idea behind CERT is to prepare citizens to help themselves, their families and their neighbors in the event of a major catastrophic event. To receive certification in the course, participants must attend all 11 sessions, which will be staged at the Irvine Police Department headquarters, Orange County Fire Authority Station No. 6 and Irvine City Hall.

You can find more information by clicking on the flier to the right, and you can request an application by visiting the City of Irvine’s CERT webpage or by calling 949-724-7164. Space is limited, so don’t wait too long if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about the Irvine Unified School District’s emergency planning efforts, take a look at this recently updated Emergency Preparedness webpage. You’ll find information on emergency communications, lockdown training, Comprehensive Safe School Plans and more.

IUSD produces 110 semifinalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship program

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. has released its annual list of semifinalists in the running for National Merit awards, and 110 of them are from right here in IUSD.

meritThese Irvine scholars are in select company. About 16,000 students have earned the prestigious distinction nationwide, representing less than 1 percent of all high school seniors. The press release is here.

So what does it take to become a National Merit semifinalist? Well, for starters, you have to do really, really well on the Preliminary SAT.

About 1.4 million juniors from more than 22,000 high schools took the PSAT during the last school year, and those that aced the exam earned an opportunity to pursue roughly 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth some $33 million. The scholarships include corporate-sponsored awards, college-sponsored awards and “National Merit $2500 Scholarships,” of which 2,500 are up for grabs.

To make it to the next round, our local semifinalists must submit detailed applications and fulfill a number of additional requirements, like earning outstanding marks throughout high school, securing the recommendation of a school official and producing a high score on the SAT.

We’re told about 90 percent of all semifinalists will become finalists, and more than half of the latter group will become Merit Scholars — and earn the college funding that comes with that title.

Past National Merit Scholars include former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, former Indiana Governor Mitchell Daniels, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Elena Kagan, an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Perhaps there’s a future Supreme Court justice or labor secretary somewhere in IUSD.

Uni teacher takes STEM to new heights with ambitious satellite experiments

Tinh Tran was looking to integrate more hands-on science, math and technology activities into his classroom lessons, with the ultimate goal of sparking an interest in STEM career paths.

ArdusatSo when the University High science teacher heard about an ambitious program that would enable high schoolers to conduct space experiments, using data from real satellites, he was interested to say the least.

“Mind-blowing” is how Tran describes the technology offered by an education company called Ardusat, which has launched softball-sized satellites called CubeSats into low orbit. (One is pictured to the right.) Each is equipped with sensors that will allow Earthbound students to track temperatures, magnetic fields, UV levels and luminosity using classroom kits with microcontrollers.

Thanks to grant funding secured through the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s Innovative Teaching Awards Program, the ninth-graders enrolled in Tran’s Earth science systems course will be among the first to pilot the new Ardusat system. And that’s drawn interest from the U.S. News & World Report, which recently interviewed the Uni educator for this story about CubeSats and the future of STEM instruction.

It’s an interesting read even without the IUSD connection. Meanwhile, Tran told us that the mini-satellites will have broad applications at Uni, allowing his students to analyze weather patterns, measure solar flares, monitor the greenhouse effect and much, much more.

“There’s a really steep learning curve for anyone jumping into this,” he said. “One of my goals this year is to integrate STEM (project-based learning) activities into my classroom to encourage more kids to think about STEM fields as a career path. This fits the bill nicely.”

As for his inclusion in the U.S. News article, he said he was happy to weigh in on a subject that’s becoming more critical by the day.

“Whenever there is a chance to promote STEM awareness, I’m in.”

Alderwood teacher relies on a longtime friend and a little ingenuity for ice bucket challenge

Over the summer, we saw a number of ALS ice bucket challenges featuring celebrities, politicians and regular folks. But we hadn’t seen one quite like this.

Dan Grubb, a sixth-grade teacher at IUSD’s Alderwood Elementary School, recently took part in the viral fundraiser, employing the help of longtime friend Edward J. McNeill, as well as a little ingenuity.

McNeill is a 35-year survivor of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS. He’s also the author of several novels.

“Edward is so inspiring,” says Grubb. “When I think things in my life are tough, it helps to change my perspective to all that Edward has overcome. This man has written three novels using one finger on a keyboard. Edward feels that it is his drive to write that keeps him going year after year.”

Even though McNeill’s physical limitations prevent him from hoisting a bucket of ice water, Grubb wanted him to do the honors. So the Alderwood teacher constructed a classic Rube Goldberg machine using household items, including parts from his garage door opener.

In the video, Grubb takes a seat under a bucket. Nearby, McNeill nudges a tennis ball down a slope and into a roll of duct tape, which taps a row of dominoes, which sets off a rat trap, which … well, you should see it for yourself.

The ALS ice bucket challenge has been a fundraising juggernaut this summer due in large part to its viral nature. Specifically, each participant calls on friends and colleagues to donate or perform the stunt — and most do both.

Before being doused, Grubb challenged Alderwood Principal Kara Rydman, IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker and Mark Sontag, IUSD’s director of math, science and career technical education. He also issued a parting challenge to his students — past, present and future.

“More research is needed to end ALS,” he said. “What difference can you make? Be a difference-maker.”

NewsFlash alert: Silverado Canyon fire grows but poses no imminent threat to Irvine

photoSmoke from a brush fire in Silverado Canyon could be seen from local neighborhoods Friday, but authorities said there was no imminent threat to Irvine.

The Orange County Fire Authority was working hard to knock down the blaze, which reportedly broke out shortly before 11 a.m. and later expanded to hundreds of acres. The Orange County Register has the story here.

[Update, 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12] The OCFA says the Silverado Fire has grown to more than 1,200 acres. Though it still does not pose an imminent danger to Irvine, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has forecast that air quality in the region could eventually reach unhealthful levels. No time-frame was given, however.

IUSD will continue to monitor air quality levels. You can too by checking out this interactive map.

OC Health Care Agency offers tips for keeping cool during the heat wave

We may be deep into September, but the mercury is once again on the rise in Southern California, with temperatures nearing triple-digits in Irvine.

SunThat means an increased risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, particularly for those who are more sensitive to higher temperatures. The Orange County Health Care Agency is therefore advising the following precautions:

  • Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure. When in the sun, wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim, and use sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous activities if you are outside or in non-air conditioned buildings. If you are working outdoors, take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.
  • Never leave children, elderly people or pets unattended in closed cars or other vehicles.
  • Check on those who are at a higher risk to make sure they are staying cool, including seniors who live alone, people with heart or lung disease and young children.
  • Stay cool indoors. If your home is not air-conditioned, visit public facilities including shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.

The agency says signs of heat exhaustion can include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting and dizziness. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cool location, rest and drink fluids.

Warning signs of heat stroke may include an extremely high body temperature; unconsciousness; confusion; hot and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; and a throbbing headache. If these symptoms are present, call for medical assistance immediately. The Health Care Agency says heat stroke victims should be moved to a shady area where their bodies can be cooled with water.

For more information on heat-related illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Three IUSD students named semifinalists in fourth annual Broadcom competition

A trio of IUSD students has been selected to advance to the next round in a science, technology and math competition sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation.

Jeffrey Wang Xing, an eighth-grader at Jeffrey Trail Middle School; Anita Garg, an eighth-grader at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School; and Alderwood School sixth-grader Michael Wayne Schoenberger are among 300 middle schoolers from across the country to be named semifinalists in the fourth annual Broadcom MASTERS competition.

MASTERS_logoIn less than a week, that group will be narrowed to 30 finalists, who will earn a trip to Washington, D.C. in October to showcase their science fair projects in a four-day STEM competition. The first-place winner gets the top prize of $25,000, presented by the Samueli Foundation.

The Broadcom MASTERS — Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering for Rising Stars — was established in 2011 to spark interest in science and engineering at the middle school level, thereby encouraging students to pursue higher levels of math and science in high school.

We’re told more than 2,054 applied to enter this year’s contest, each having met the prerequisite of placing in the top 10 percent of science fairs affiliated with the Society for Science & the Public. Semifinalists were then selected by actual scientists, engineers and educators.

Jeffrey of Jeffey Trail submitted a project that documented “The Study of Levitation Distance and Stability Range in Diamagnetic Levitation,” while Rancho’s Anita entered “The Effect of Competition on a Problematic Invasive Species, Brassica nigra.” Michael of Alderwood submitted a project titled, “Storm The Castle with Newton’s Second Law of Motion: Ping Pong Projectile.”

“Now in its fourth year, the Broadcom MASTERS is enabling more middle school students of all levels to regard math and science as helping them gain the critical skills that lead to rewarding careers in STEM,” said Paula Golden, executive director of the Broadcom Foundation and director of community affairs for the Broadcom Corporation. “We are extremely proud of the thousands of young people who were nominated by their regional and state fairs to compete this year and applaud the 300 semifinalists who now compete for a slot as one of the 30 finalists in the 2014 Broadcom MASTERS.”

To read the news release, click here. To view the complete list of semifinalists, click here.

What will be the name of Irvine’s next high school? IUSD is seeking your suggestions

Irvine’s next high school is on track to open with an inaugural class of ninth-graders in August 2016.

But first things first: The school needs a name, and you can help.

IUSD is asking community members to submit suggestions for what to call the new campus via this online input form. All entries received by the Sept. 26 deadline will be reviewed by Superintendent Terry Walker and his staff, which will then make a recommendation to the Board of Education.

HS5studentunion_000Board members are expected to vote on an official moniker at their Oct. 7 meeting, ensuring IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school is no longer referred to as IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school by the time students arrive.

Enrollment projections indicate a new campus will be needed in 2016 to accommodate thousands of new homes in the area while preventing overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. Following nearly three years of analysis and environmental reviews, board members approved a resolution in May to do just that, securing more than 40 acres along Irvine Boulevard, west of Alton Parkway, for the new school.

And now comes the question of what should be stamped on the marquee.

The Board of Education’s policy for naming campuses and facilities states that elementary schools should be named after an adjacent street, park, or village, and middle schools should reference significant landmarks in the community. (You can find recent examples here and here.) As for high schools, the same policy says their names should be considered individually. It also suggests the process for naming sites should include community input where feasible.

So here’s your chance to brand a future Irvine landmark. To suggest a name for IUSD’s next high school, click here, or visit http://tinyurl.com/fifthhighschool.

Cypress Village Elementary students and staff are off to a picture-perfect start

Cypress Village_Web Image

We proudly present Cypress Village Elementary School’s first students and staff.

On Tuesday, Sept. 2, the school’s inaugural class gathered on the blacktop for the above aerial photo, which will one day hold historical significance. Principal Susan Kemp tells us a company called Day2Day Printing donated custom school shirts for the occasion.

Cypress Village is one of two brand-new IUSD schools, and you can check out a video tour of its campus here. Meanwhile, Portola Springs Elementary is operating at an interim site for a year while its permanent facility is under construction.