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!

Governor’s latest spending plan calls for increased school funding

A new state spending plan unveiled Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown would provide a $5.4 billion increase for California’s K-14 public school system.           

IMG_1647Indeed, the budget proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1 reflects California’s steady economic improvement — and the governor’s commitment to fully implementing California’s new education funding formula.

“Overall, this budget is welcome news for Orange County students,” said Wendy Benkert, OCDE’s associate superintendent of business services. “We eagerly await a number of key details that will shed light on how this plan specifically impacts Orange County, but the governor continues to demonstrate his support for full implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, and for the third year in a row, schools are poised to receive one-time dollars to support critical investments.”

The Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF, was designed in 2013-14 to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. Along with a base level of funding by grade span, it sends additional dollars to districts based on their number — and concentration — of English-learners, low-income students and foster youth.

When it was created, the LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems that were to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year. Until then, districts have been receiving annual increases in the form of “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and the target amount. Based on his proposal, the governor wants to increase the gap funding by $2.8 billion this year, or about 5.4 percent. 

Brown’s plan also includes more than $1.2 billion in one-time discretionary spending for school districts, charter schools and county offices of education. This funding could support key investments for districts, including standards implementation, technology, professional development, training for beginning teachers and deferred maintenance.

“The ongoing economic recovery in California will increase the Proposition 98 budget guarantee for schools up to $71.6 billion, a dramatic improvement from the $47.3 billion budget share in the depths of the recession five years ago,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Thursday in a statement. 

Note that the governor’s proposal serves as a starting point for budget deliberations that typically go for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data and projections. 

OCDE staff and school district leaders will continue to analyze details of the governor’s proposal as they emerge.

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.


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.


OC Pathways Showcase will highlight college and career partnerships on Dec. 2

A limited number of seats are still available for an upcoming showcase to celebrate the first year of OC Pathways, an initiative that’s paving the way to college and career success and strengthening the 21st-century workforce.

OCPathwaysShowcaseOpen to educators and industry leaders, the inaugural OC Pathways Showcase on Dec. 2 will feature innovative displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, as well as a keynote address from NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. “Equipping Students for the Global Innovation Economy” is the theme of the event, which will be held from 7:30 to 10 a.m. inside Hangar 244 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.

Additional speakers are set to include Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares, Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett, OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher, and Max Gardner, president and CEO of the Orange County United Way.

Led by OCDE and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was initiated through a 2014 grant from the California Department of Education. The project connects educators with industry partners to align coursework so that it combines rigorous academics with career preparation. OC Pathways also creates work-based learning opportunities for students and empowers educators with 21st-century learning strategies.

If you’d like to attend the showcase, click here, or on the graphic above. If you wish to learn more about OC Pathways, visit www.OCPathways.com.


UC Irvine to host annual Gifted and Talented Education webinar series

The University of California, Irvine Extension is once again offering a free webinar series geared toward teachers, administrators and parents of gifted students. The eighth annual Gifted and Talented Education Webinar Series will take place weekly on Tuesdays, Feb. 2 through Feb 23, from 4 to 5 p.m.

IMG_4790The four-part series covers challenges the GATE community faces and examines potential methods that teachers, parents and administration can use when developing curriculum and programs, or when interacting with GATE students. Educators participating in the entire series have the option to receive service credit.

“With the GATE community rapidly evolving, UC Irvine Extension strives to provide critical techniques and strategies to maximize the potential of gifted learners,” said Angela Jeantet, director of education and business programs at UCI Extension. “These annual webinars provide educational professionals and parents of gifted students the opportunity to gather critical information that will benefit and solidify the educational foundation of GATE students for today and beyond.”

The free series will be hosted by four leading GATE educators and professionals and will feature presentations on harnessing students’ intuition and curiosity; expanding learning with technology; building resilience and reducing risky behaviors; and globalization and technology.

You can register for the webinars here. And for information on the series or the credit option, email Lisa Kadowaki, or contact her by phone at 949-824-9304.

Local leaders share strategies for building ‘STEM ecosystems’ at national conference

STEM 111215Leaders from 27 education groups that focus on the advancement of STEM subjects — otherwise known as science, technology, engineering and math — have gathered in Washington, D.C. this week to exchange strategies for building STEM education.

Specifically, they’re exploring ways to increase the number of STEM networks or ecosystems, which promote learning in these fields by fostering collaboration among schools, businesses and community organizations.

Making the trip to the nation’s capital were representatives from the OC STEM Initiative, which has become a model for a number of the STEM ecosystems popping up throughout the country. The local contingent also joined other education, business and community leaders in a meeting with White House officials to discuss equitable STEM education and federal STEM policy.

“American education is changing in order to help students succeed in the 21st-century economy,” said Dr. Jeff Hittenberger, chief academic officer for the Orange County Department of Education. “STEM learning empowers students to explore, innovate, think critically and solve problems in the real world. Educators, business partners, families and community members are partners in equipping students for success in college, career and life.”

Along with Dr. Hittenberger, the Orange County group included Dr. Christine Olmstead, OCDE’s assistant superintendent of instructional services; Dr. Linda Christopher, executive director of OC STEM; Paula Golden, president and executive director of the Broadcom Foundation and director of community affairs for Broadcom; Rick Singer, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation; Katherine Bihr, vice president of programs and education for the Tiger Woods Foundation; Michelle Freeman, program officer for the Samueli Foundation; Christina Altmayer, executive director of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County; Dr. CynDee Zandes, technical assistant for the STEM Ecosystem Initiative; and Gerald Solomon, who convened the gathering as co-chair of the STEM Funders Network and executive director of the Samueli Foundation.

The more than two dozen ecosystems selected to participate in this week’s event are receiving technical assistance and support from the STEM Funders Network, which has committed to producing 100 ecosystems in its first three years. Each ecosystem will be tasked with creating engaging, real-world STEM learning experiences in their communities.

“The president has called for all of us to think of creative and effective ways of getting all of our students engaged in STEM education,” said John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology — and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “It’s heartening to see so many communities working locally and together in response to the President’s call to action.”

Ecosystem leaders also met with Harvard University student David Boone, who spoke to the group about the impact of real-world STEM experiences on his own path from homelessness to higher education. Boone benefited from Cleveland’s growing STEM ecosystem during his time at MC2 STEM High School.  

“Collaborations like the Northeast Ohio Hub STEM Learning Ecosystem are helping to inspire and prepare students for success in STEM-related fields and in life,” said Ron Ottinger, executive director of the Noyce Foundation and co-chair of the STEM Funders Network. “We are delighted to help these regional coalitions advance STEM education around the country.”  

“We look forward to continuing our work with communities nationwide,” added Solomon, the STEM Funders Network co-chair and executive director of the Samueli Foundation. “We know that these grassroots, local partnerships can provide a sustainable way to ensure STEM learning is truly ‘everywhere’ for all learners as they build the skills and knowledge to thrive in a global workforce.”

The first 27 STEM ecosystems selected by the STEM Funders Network are: 

  • Arizona SciTech Ecosystem (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  • Bay Area STEM Ecosystem (San Jose, Calif.)
  • BoSTEM (Boston, Mass.)
  • Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Colorado STEM (Denver, Colo.)
  • East Syracuse Minoa Central School District STEM Learning Ecosystem (East Syracuse, N.Y.)
  • ecosySTEM KC (Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan.)
  • EvanSTEM (Evanston, Ill.)
  • Great Lakes Bay Regional STEM Initiative (Freeland, Mich.)
  • Greater Austin STEM Ecosystem (Austin, Texas)
  • Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • Indiana STEM Ecosystem Initiative (Indianapolis, Ind.)
  • Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership in Western New York (Buffalo, N.Y.)
  • Los Angeles Regional STEM Hub (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • NC STEM Ecosystem: Driving the Future (Research Triangle Park, N.C.)
  • Northeast Ohio STEM Learning Ecosystem (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • NYC STEM Education Network (New York, N.Y.)
  • Orange County STEM Initiative (Corona Del Mar, Calif.)
  • Oregon’s Statewide Regional STEM Hub Network (Salem, Ore.)
  • Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Providence After School Alliance (PASA) AfterZone STEM – FUSE Initiative (Providence, R.I.)
  • Queens 2020 (Corona, N.Y.)
  • San Diego EcosySTEM (San Diego, Calif.)
  • STEMcityPHL Regional Network (Greater Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Tampa Bay STEM Network (Tampa, Fla.)
  • Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (Tulsa, Okla.)
  • Ventura County STEM Regional Network Learning Ecosystem (Camarillo, Calif.)