Expert on music and brain function to speak at upcoming Creative Edge Lecture

Noted neuroscientist and musician Charles Limb, who has extensively researched how the brain creates and responds to music, will be the featured speaker at next month’s seventh annual Creative Edge Lecture, which will be held at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.39.58 AMThe 90-minute presentation, which starts at 10 a.m. on March 14, is also set to include musicians from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA. If your work involves education, business or the arts, this would be a good lecture to check out, and we’ve got the ticket information below. 

Dr. Limb, who has degrees from both Harvard and Yale, is a professor and chief of otology/neurotology and skull base surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He’s also an expert in music whose studies on how the brain works during musical improvisation led him to put jazz musicians and rappers through a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, or fMRI.

By sharing his latest findings, Dr. Limb will offer invaluable insight on how humans generate new ideas, why creativity is a crucial part of who we are, and why creative pursuits are critical to the advancement of the human race. It’s pretty fascinating research, and as such Dr. Limb has been featured by a number of prominent outlets including the New York Times, CNN and TED.

Sponsors for this year’s Creative Edge Lecture include the Orange County Department of Education, Boeing, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Phil and Mary Lyons, Haskell & White LLP, UCI’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Susan K. Hori, Carl Neisser, Judith Posnikoff, Janet and James “Walkie” Ray, Kay Mortenson and the Orange County Community Foundation.

The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Tickets are $25 if purchased before the early-bird deadline of Feb. 29 and $35 if purchased in March. The cost for students to attend is just $10.

To order tickets, visit www.SCFTA.org, or call 714-556-2787. For more information, contact Steve Venz, OCDE’s visual and performing arts coordinator, at 714-966-4128 or svenz@ocde.us.

OCDE in 30 Seconds: A brief look at the ‘Move More Eat Healthy’ program


Once again, we’re challenging staff members to explain Orange County Department of Education programs or services in under half a minute.

For our latest installment of “OCDE in 30 Seconds,” we caught up with Program Coordinator Chris Corliss to talk about the “Move More Eat Healthy” initiative. Take a look.

If you want to learn more about the program, check out this story from the OCDE Newsroom or visit this webpage.


Is there an OCDE program or service you’d like to see explained in 30 seconds? Send us a request at communications@ocde.us.

Students at Anaheim’s Loara High School bank on unique job training opportunity (video)


Here’s a story that’s earning interest.

Union Bank has opened an actual working branch on the campus of Loara High School in Anaheim. By all accounts, this represents a highly unique partnership that’s dispensing both lessons on financial literacy as well as bankable job training for Loara students.

We could probably deposit a few more bank puns into this post, but we think you should just check out the video, courtesy of our top-notch Media Services team.


Is there something cool happening at your school that you’d like to see featured on the OCDE Newsroom? Drop us an email at communications@ocde.us.

OCDE’s College and Career Preparatory Academy offers a path to graduation and much more

Kirstie Suarez’s family moved several times when she was in high school, bouncing between California, North Carolina and Florida before Suarez took her final classes at Saddleback High School in Santa Ana.

Somewhere along the way, she fell two classes short of graduating.

CCPA-logo.jpgFive years later, Suarez has made up that ground, and rather quickly, thanks to the College and Career Preparatory Academy, a brand new charter school approved by the Orange County Board of Education to assist young adults in need of a diploma or a path to higher learning.

“I work fulltime, so I don’t have a lot of time to be taking extra classes,” said Suarez, 23. “I walked in that first day and they immediately gave me assignments.”

Administered by the Orange County Department of Education, the College and Career Preparatory Academy represents a first of its kind for the county. It’s designed to fill gaps in services currently available to young men and women who are 18 to 25 years old and have aged out of the school system but still need to complete their graduation requirements.

Data shows more than 100,000 match this profile in Orange County alone. Despite an 85.3 percent graduation rate, more than 4,000 local students leave high school each year without their diplomas.

The College and Career Preparatory Academy offers them a way back, providing much needed flexibility to pursue lost credits at no cost. But it isn’t just about finishing high school. The academy also prepares students for college and career success, says Director Byron Fairchild.

“This program supports re-engagement in learning and workforce preparation,” Fairchild says. “It’s about expanding options within our county and strengthening the bridge connecting K-12 education, adult education and higher education to prepare students for productive workforce and career opportunities.”

The College and Career Preparatory Academy began operations in the fall, welcoming its first students on Sept. 9 from a single storefront building in Santa Ana. Word of mouth has since swelled enrollment to about 100 with two additional sites — one in Anaheim and a second Santa Ana location — but school leaders have much bigger ambitions. Additional locations are planned for the west, central and south regions of the county, and Fairchild says the school is capable of serving up to 1,200 students.

Dinah Ismail
College and Career Preparatory Academy teacher Dinah Ismail helps customize instruction to meet the needs of each student.

Teacher Dinah Ismail has been with the academy from the beginning. She says what’s most unique about the program is that it’s highly customizable to fit the busy lives of its students.

“These are often full-time parents, students who work full time, students who work graveyard shifts, so the flexibility of this program is something they’re very grateful for,” she said.

Most who enroll study at home with the help of an online learning tool called GradPoint, a product offered by Pearson Education. They then visit the academy for an hour or more a week for additional support and tutelage. Those who don’t have a computer can work from textbooks, and some have the option of checking out a laptop. Ismail said mobile hotspots will soon be added to the menu of available technologies for students without reliable Internet connections.

Suarez, who works full time for a local public agency, said she was able to complete two courses in about a month.

“The flexibility, that was my main concern,” she said. “I was able to take classes online after work and during lunch. I was very focused.”

Ismail says it’s all about customizing instruction to meet the needs of each student. If that means talking over the phone or exchanging text messages to explain specific lessons, so be it.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been in education in one way or another for 20 years, teaching for 13, but this is my favorite assignment because my students are at such a pivotal and awesome age in their lives,” Ismail said. “They’re coming back and figuring out what they want to do with their careers and their lives and their educational paths. I feel very lucky to be a part of that process and to help navigate that path with them.”

Data would indicate students who go back to get their diplomas are making a very wise decision. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average high school dropout earns $20,241 dollars annually, or $10,386 less than a high school graduate. (That’s about $36,424 less than a college graduate per year.) Fairchild and his team are acutely aware of these numbers.

“This charter is unique to our county in specifically targeting this out-of-school youth population in an attempt to reduce the number of young adults without a high school diploma,” Fairchild said. “The pairing of education, job readiness and workforce preparation is the key combination to motivate and guide students through the process of earning a high school diploma and pursuing a college and career pathway.”

The doors are open. Now it’s just about getting the word out.

“A lot of the students are telling their friends, neighbors and family because they know other people who are in similar situations,” Ismail said. “There are probably a lot of other students in the county who could benefit from this but don’t know about it.”


For more information about the College and Career Preparatory Academy, including enrollment options, call Sandra Quintanilla at 714-245-6417.

What is MTSS? Here’s your four-minute primer (video)


As we’ve mentioned here before, education offers more than its share of buzzwords, acronyms and jargon, but some are definitely worth getting to know a little better.

MTSS is one.

The initials stand for Multi-Tiered System of Supports, and it’s essentially a comprehensive framework that a number of schools are using to address each student’s academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs.

Because MTSS is becoming so prevalent on campuses across Orange County, we enlisted our Media Services team and experts from OCDE to produce the brief explainer video above.

Take a look!

In the news: Career pathway programs on the rise, a bankable opportunity in Anaheim and more

It’s that time again. Here’s a week’s worth of local education stories you might have missed.

  • California’s teacher shortage is likely to worsen, according to a new report that calls for “purposeful steps” to reverse the trend.
  • In the NewsThe integration of hands-on career technical training with standards-based academics is becoming increasingly prevalent in California’s high schools thanks to a sizable investment by the state in programs like Orange County’s own OC Pathways.
  • The Orange Unified School District has conducted a feasibility study to determine whether a bond measure to replace aging facilities can win voter approval.

Partnership between OCDE, OC Waste & Recycling wins top environmental award

GEELA2A waste-reduction partnership between the Orange County Department of Education’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling has received the state’s highest environmental honor.

On the heels of netting a major accolade from the California School Boards Association, Project Zero Waste, a service-learning program that empowers students with hands-on environmental science instruction, has earned its collaborators the prestigious Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, or GEELA.

OCDE and OC Waste & Recycling were jointly recognized — along with just 11 other organizations — Tuesday night at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Sacramento.

In the photo above, CalEPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez, left, is joined on stage by Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County’s superintendent of schools; Isabel Rios, recycling and environmental programs manager with OC Waste & Recycling; Lori Kiesser, development director for Inside the Outdoors; and state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program,” Kiesser said. “The GEELA represents the top environmental award in the state, and it’s a testament to the collaborative efforts of Inside the Outdoors and OC Waste & Recycling, which are promoting sustainability and changing lives.”

Project Zero Waste teaches students the science of solid waste through Inside the Outdoors field trips as well as in-class lessons taught by Traveling Scientists. Program participants get to apply what they’ve learned to the design and implementation of solid waste reduction campaigns, which include campuswide recycling efforts, school gardens, community clean-up activities and other student-led activities.

The program, which in December earned the California School Boards Association’s Golden Bell Award, has offered science instruction to more than 325,000 students since it began in 2009. Follow-up assessments show these lessons increase STEM knowledge by an average of 14 percent, and schools engaging in Project Zero Waste have reduced their trash by up to 20,000 pounds annually.

Geelaseal“The lessons learned by students participating in Project Zero Waste extend beyond academics,” Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares said recently. “In applying science lessons to develop solutions to real-world problems, students gain team-building, creativity and leadership skills.”

Established in 1993, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals, companies and organizations that use sustainable business practices to conserve energy, reduce waste or prevent pollution while contributing to their local economy.

Finalists are selected by a panel of judges that includes the Governor’s Office and the secretaries of the California Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resources Agency; the Department of Food and Agriculture; the State Transportation Agency; the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency; the Labor and Workforce Development Agency; and the Health and Human Services Agency.

Each year, the panel evaluates and announces winners in the following categories: Environmental Education; Ecosystem and Land Use Stewardship; Climate Change; Zero Emission Vehicle Dealers; Sustainable Practices, Communities or Facilities; and Waste Reduction.

For more information on the GEELA program and this year’s recipients, click here. To learn more about Project Zero Waste, check out the video below, and be sure to visit the Inside the Outdoors website to get involved. 

Here’s a look at California’s new education laws for 2016

capitol.jpegA new year is upon us, and that means a raft of new state laws has gone into effect. Here at the OCDE Newsroom, we’ve been specifically tracking a handful of educational bills expected to have an impact on Orange County students and schools. Here’s a quick roundup of what’s changed as we enter 2016.

Vaccinations

Over the summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 277, which states that parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on a personal belief exemption. Though the law technically took effect Jan. 1, the 2015-16 year isn’t affected, so the real impact will be seen in the fall.

High School Exit Exam

Another new law officially suspends the California High School Exit Exam and calls for school districts to grant diplomas to students who didn’t pass the test but met all other graduation requirements, dating all the way back to the 2003-04 school year. Eligible students are advised to contact the school districts, county offices or charter schools where they completed grade 12.

Cheerleading

Good news for cheerleading enthusiasts. Assembly Bill 949, signed by the governor in October, reclassified cheerleading as a competitive CIF sport, starting in 2017-18. In the meantime, CIF officials are tasked with creating new rules, guidelines and safety protocols.

Health education

Assembly Bill 329 makes comprehensive sexual health education mandatory in middle or high school unless parents specifically opt out. It also updates the curriculum to include HIV and AIDS prevention information.

A separate law, Senate Bill 695, makes it a graduation requirement for students to complete a course in health education that includes instruction in sexual harassment and violence.

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.

Mijares: OC Pathways initiative has much to celebrate at the end of its first year

From the Desk of Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools


On a cool December morning, in a historic airplane hangar at the Orange County Great Park, some of the region’s top educators and business leaders gathered for a very special birthday party.

OC Pathways, an initiative that brings together schools, colleges and businesses to create new career paths in targeted industry sectors, was celebrating its first year — and what a year it’s been.

Al MijaresOver the past 12 months, more than 8,600 high school students have enrolled in OC Pathways programs, receiving career preparation in the fields of health care, biotechnology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, information technology and digital media. In our community colleges, more than 12,500 students have participated in OC Pathways coursework, earning roughly 600 certificates and 85 degrees.

Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was launched in 2014 through a California Department of Education grant. Along with its efforts to partner schools and colleges with industry leaders, the project creates work-based learning opportunities for students — these include internships and mentorship — and empowers educators with innovative teaching strategies.

In just the first year of this initiative, more than 2,500 students participated in one or more work-based learning experiences, and we have seen a 13 percent increase in the number of articulation agreements that allow high school students to receive community college credit for taking career technical education courses.

Moreover, OC Pathways has established 53 additional businesses partnerships that will help strengthen the 21st-century workforce.

On Dec. 2, the leaders of many of these businesses were among the 300 or so who gathered in the Great Park’s Hangar 244 for a morning showcase that featured incredible displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, as well as video profiles of students who are on successful career tracks thanks to OC Pathways.

NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who made two trips aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, was riveting as our keynote speaker at the end. I was also honored to say a few words, joining Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett, OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher, Orange County United Way president and CEO Max Gardner, and four very impressive high school and college students.

Thanks to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County’s secondary and postsecondary partners, OC Pathways has already racked up more achievements than can be listed in this column, and we’re just getting started.

Just think of what can be accomplished in year two. 


You can learn more about OC Pathways’ efforts to promote college and career success by visiting the OC Pathways website. To find out how you can get involved, click here.