State education officials say 97 percent participated in new web-based assessments

California students posted a 97 percent participation rate on this year’s statewide English and math assessments, education officials announced Tuesday.

And the numbers were just as strong locally.

More than 250,000 Orange County students took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, exams last spring, participating at a rate of 96.9 percent in English and 97.6 percent in math.

students in computer labThese rates are significant for a few reasons. For starters, almost all of the tests in California were taken on computers, meaning they were reliant on state and local efforts to upgrade schools’ Internet capabilities. These were also the first exams to reflect the state’s more rigorous standards in English and math.

“These numbers tell an important story,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Tuesday. “They reflect strong support for our new standards among parents, teachers, students, and business and community leaders. The standards are a critical part of our plan to improve education in California because they emphasize skills that prepare students for 21st-century careers and college, such as critical thinking and problem solving.”

As we reported in September, Orange County students outshined their state and regional counterparts on the new assessments, with 53 percent meeting or exceeding the English language arts standard and 45 percent meeting or exceeding the standards in mathematics. When you combine the number of students who met or nearly met the standards, Orange County posted rates of 76 percent in English and 72 percent in math.

In California, 44 percent of students met or exceeded the English standard and 34 percent met or exceeded the standards in math.

In the news: Culinary arts in Irvine, new immunization rules, a Tustin school to close and more

It’s Friday, Dec. 18, and we’ve got another batch of spoiler-free education stories you might have missed. Here goes:

  • The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is among those reminding parents of new immunization requirements that take effect on Jan. 1. Specifically, Senate Bill 277 says parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on personal belief exemptions.
  • A student from Irvine’s University High School has earned the unique honor of having a photograph she took displayed in Vice President Joe Biden’s home.
  • Estancia High School, also in Costa Mesa, held its annual Fire Day, offering sophomore students the unique opportunity to experience the demands and challenges of a firefighter’s job.

OC schools not affected by LAUSD’s decision to shut down campuses following threat

As you may have heard, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that all of its schools would be closed Tuesday, Dec. 15 due to a threat of violence sent electronically to district officials.  

290x210-2The decision to cancel classes in Los Angeles was taken “in an abundance of caution” based on a specific threat reported within that district. The Orange County Department of Education has not been notified of any similar reports involving Orange County schools.

OCDE will, however, continue to work closely with law enforcement officials and maintain ongoing communications. Above all, the safety of students and staff remains our highest priority.

You can read the latest LAUSD coverage from the Los Angeles Times here.

And to learn how to help children deal with traumatic events, check out this Newsroom post from last month.

In the news: Reaction to the new federal education law, environmental studies and more

Guess what? It’s Friday again, and we’ve got a week’s worth of education stories you might have missed.

  • OCEdNewsSix students from Washington Middle School in La Habra won a $10,000 prize after devising a plan to reduce water usage on campus. They’re now in the running for a $30,000 grand prize in the of the Lexus Eco Challenge.
  • Project Zero Waste, a partnership between OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling, earned a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association.
  • Though a large percentage of preschoolers speak a language other than English in the home, preschool teachers often don’t have the training to teach English-learners.

In the news: Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite, librarian honored and more

  • Health teachers in all ten high schools in the Anaheim Union High School District are now certified to train students in hands-only CPR – the goal is to have every student in the district trained in the next four years.
  • The Garden Grove Unified School District’s modernization project is on time and within budget despite logistical challenges.
  • A study released this week by the American Institutes for Research finds that students in transitional kindergarten begin kindergarten better prepared in language, literacy and math.
  • The bill replacing the No Child Left Behind Act that expired in 2007 has passed the House and is set to go to the Senate this month.
  • An OCDE librarian with the unique ability to connect with students who are incarcerated is one of only 10 librarians in the U.S. to receive the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award.
  • Two Orange County school districts are members of CORE – a group of districts set to release preliminary reports on a new school grading formula called the School Quality Index.

OC Pathways Showcase demonstrates the sky is not the limit for Orange County students

IMG_8974Leland Melvin’s pathway to a career as a NASA astronaut took a highly unusual detour through the National Football League. But first came a high school football game with a college scholarship at stake.

With his team down late, Melvin couldn’t hold on to a potential touchdown pass in front of a homecoming crowd and a University of Richmond scout. But the story doesn’t end there. His coach responded by calling the same play again. Melvin caught the second ball, securing a victory and the Richmond scholarship.

IMG_8925“For the students in here, that is the message to you,” he told a rapt audience on Wednesday morning. “We have all failed at something. We all still fail at things. It’s not that you fail, it’s that you keep going.”

Melvin, who voyaged to the International Space Station in 2008 and 2009, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural OC Pathways Showcase, held in Hangar 244 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The event, featuring innovative displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, drew about 300 educators and industry leaders to celebrate the college and career partnerships established during the first year of OC Pathways.

As we’ve previously mentioned here, OC Pathways is an initiative that brings together schools and businesses to create sequenced coursework that combines rigorous academics with career preparation. It also offers work-based learning opportunities for students and empowers educators with 21st-century learning strategies. Led by OCDE and Saddleback College, the program was established in 2014 through a grant from the California Department of Education.

In just a year, more than 8,600 local high school students have participated in OC Pathways programs across six industry sectors, which include health care, biotechnology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, information technology and digital media. At the community college level, more than 12,500 students have enrolled in OC Pathways courses, earning more than 600 certificates and 85 degrees. (You can read more achievements here.)

IMG_8889“I believe that we can attribute these initial accomplishments, and the great accomplishments ahead, to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County secondary and postsecondary partners that have been forged by OC Pathways,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said at Wednesday’s Showcase.

The program has only been in existence for a year, he added, “but it has set very high goals.”

Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett also delivered remarks, as did OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher and Max Gardner, president and CEO of the Orange County United Way.

And of course there was Melvin, who spoke about his own personal pathway, which led from Lynchburg, Virginia to the NFL — he had brief stints with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys — to the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which twice transported him to the final frontier and back.

Not many can boast professional football and space travel on their resumes. But long before he did either he was simply a curious kid helping his dad convert a bread truck into a family camper — and learning important lessons about what is possible.

Melvin said it wasn’t until he and his father rewired the vehicle, installed bunk beds and painted the exterior that he could envision the truck as a serviceable motorhome.

“How many times do your students not see past what’s right in front of them?” Melvin said. “They don’t have the vision to see that next step or that next career, and so it’s important that this community ensures that we pull back the blinds and let them see that these things that they are doing right now can lead to a career in your company or your organization.”

IMG_0898The high school and college students in attendance appeared ready to launch their careers right away. Many displayed their technical achievements in STEM fields, lining the hangar with impressive exhibits, including handmade aerial drones and experiments that use data from real satellites.

Toward the end of the showcase, four students took the stage to field questions about their career paths from Dr. Mijares and Dr. Burnett, including Dana Hills High senior Stephen Tedena and Saddleback College student Leah Jamison, whose stories are documented in brief videos here and here; and Century High senior Rosa Yanes and Saddleback High senior Denise Garcia, who participated in an exclusive summer internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

We’d encourage you to check out these videos to see how OC Pathways is specifically impacting local students. And you can learn more about the initiative by visiting the OC Pathways website.

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In the news: Flipped teaching, upgrades at Katella, promoting kindness and more

It’s the last Friday before Thanksgiving, and we’ve got a feast of local education stories you might have missed.

  • An Oxford Academy sophomore’s determination to share the importance of money management with his peers lands him an on-campus interview with California State Treasurer John Chiang.
  • A statewide campaign organized by the advocacy group Californians for Justice and its Student Voice project encourages educators to believe in all students’ ability to succeed.