OCDE in 30 Seconds: IT division supports the technology needs of Orange County schools


How does OCDE’s Information Technology team support students and educators throughout Orange County? If you’ve got 30 seconds, IT Director Louis Mazzarini will explain.


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

Tustin Unified School District and foundation to host educational technology conference

The Tustin Unified School District and the Tustin Public Schools Foundation are jointly hosting their second “Connect Institute,” a technology and learning conference, from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26.

Connect Institute #1 - March 2015More than 160 educational leaders representing 20-plus school districts throughout Southern California have registered for the three-day conference, which will be held at the Irvine Marriott. Attendees will explore connected teaching and learning, effective classroom technologies, leadership strategies and more.

This year’s keynote speakers will be Tustin Superintendent Dr. Gregory Franklin and John Couch, vice president of education for Apple. Couch is also a computer scientist and advocate for technology in education.

Picture1Board members, superintendents, principals, district administrators, IT directors and teacher leaders will get a chance to participate in strategic team planning sessions and workshops on a variety of topics, including educational technology in the classroom, essential tools for secondary math, establishing student-run technology help centers, developing student leaders to support robotics programs, building college and career-ready pathways, innovative online professional development, creating educational cafes in the classroom and utilizing Google Classroom at the secondary level.

Participants will also visit three schools – Barbara Benson Elementary School, C.E. Utt Middle School and Beckman High School – to see how teachers and students are using technology in the 21st-century classroom, and they’ll have an opportunity to tour the district’s Technology Operations Center at Beckman.

For more information about Connect Institute, contact Tustin Unified’s Communications Office at 714-730-7339.

Area high school teams prep for the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon

SuperquizgymOver the next two Saturdays, more than 500 students from 43 local high schools will participate in the 48th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon, which concludes with the rousing Super Quiz Relay on Feb. 6.

Schools will once again be competing for top honors – and an invitation to represent Orange County at the California Academic Decathlon in March. Last year, Westminster High School won the county championship; Irvine’s Woodbridge High placed second but finished eighth overall at the state contest in Sacramento.

OC decathletes will kick off the communications portion of the county competition on Saturday, Jan. 30 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches, participating in personal interviews and writing essays at Tustin High School.

One week later, they’ll take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science at Westminster High School. Each of these areas, with the exception of mathematics, will be based on the 2015-16 theme, “India.”

As in the past, the event culminates with some of the most compelling drama. The Super Quiz Relay is a perennial crowd favorite that resembles a quiz show and sounds like a sporting event, with parents and classmates boisterously cheering on their favorite squads from the sidelines. The relay, which is open to the public, will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Westminster High School gymnasium, located at 14325 Goldenwest St. in Westminster.

Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels.

Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each team must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Competitions culminate with the Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience.

On average, Orange County decathletes report spending 20 to 25 hours a week preparing for the Academic Decathlon. About 10 of those hours involve working with coaches and teammates at afterschool meetings; the remaining practice time is spent studying alone or with teammates outside of school.

Along with logging long hours, teamwork plays a crucial role in each team’s success. Students create tests and quizzes for one another, host scrimmages and analyze the prepared and impromptu speeches and interviews of their classmates. Students who are stronger at one academic subject often tutor and coach their teammates.

“Decathletes often refer to their decathlon team as their second family because of the countless hours spent together experiencing the rigors of competition,” says Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events. “The constant engagement in communication, along with the ability to collaborate with others, are important skills needed to succeed in the 21st century. For each Orange County team, the camaraderie and commitment towards achieving one common goal shines brightly.”

This year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon is supported by the generous donations of community members and made possible by sponsors including NuVision Federal Credit Union, C2 Education, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Learning.com, Teacher Created Materials and Aeries Software, Inc.

Top honors, medals and scholarships will be awarded at the OCAD Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Bill Medley Auditorium at Santa Ana High School.

For more information, go here, or contact Orange County Department of Education Program Specialist Kristin Rigby at (714) 966-4435 or krigby@ocde.us.

In the news: Project Zero Waste honored, kindergarten vaccination rates rise and more

We’ve made it to another Friday, and that means it’s time for our weekly recap of recent education stories.

OC educators will be able to remotely attend this year’s CUE educational technology conference

This coming March, scores of tech-minded teachers and administrators will once again descend upon Palm Springs for the annual CUE National Conference, featuring the latest educational technology innovations.

CUEBut what about those who can’t make it out to Palm Springs? Well, now there’s a way to participate remotely from Orange County. (Because technology!)

“CUE Connect” will enable registered educators to watch all three keynote speeches at the March 17-19 event and virtually engage in the breakout sessions from a conference center at the Orange County Department of Education, located at 200 Kalmus Drive in Costa Mesa. This is a first for CUE, which says it intends to explore other venue options in future years.

Founded in 1978, CUE works to advance student achievement by offering insight and training on the latest educational technologies. More than 6,000 teachers and administrators annually attend CUE’s signature conference, billed as the largest and oldest education technology gathering in California. It’s also among the largest in the U.S.

This year’s CUE National Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17; 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18; and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 19. The CUE Connect registration fee is $149 for all three days.

For more information, or to register, go here.

In the news: A state spending proposal, a makeup assignment in La Habra, court news and more

You want headlines? We’ve got headlines. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s happening in the world of education:

  • Anthony Rendon, the next speaker of the California Assembly, wants to use his position to focus on early childhood education.

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.

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.

 

State Superintendent Torlakson lauds Laguna Beach as a leading digital district (video)


How’s this for recognition? State Superintendent Tom Torlakson recently cited the Laguna Beach Unified School District as one of three “leading digital districts” in California.

“These bright spots serve as lights of encouragement and guidance for our state,” Torlakson wrote in this letter to district leaders about technology and equity.

Laguna Beach, which was mentioned along with the Napa Valley and Riverside unified school districts, has been actively promoting the use of technology in its classrooms. In fact, the district piloted a Bring Your Own Device program at Laguna Beach High School in October 2014 that has since been expanded districtwide.

“Our teachers connect with students everyday within the classrooms,” said LBUSD Superintendent Sherine Smith, “but it was our turn to strengthen the connection with students. Using technology that they already use at home is important because students have learned how to best utilize their own devices to take ownership of their own learning.”

In addition to BYOD, Laguna Beach Unified carefully selects web-based software, including Haiku and Pear Deck, to ensure virtual learning environments are engaging in and out of classrooms. Moreover, the district’s 4Cs Learning Environments project was established to strengthen the link between the school environment and student learning.

“We found that after implementing the Common Core, teachers were creating collaborative lessons but were battling their classrooms,” said Chief Technology Officer Mike Morrison. “We have empowered our teachers to become researchers and testers for the concepts, and together we have designed truly remarkable learning spaces.”

Watch a flexible classroom space in action in the video above. And you can learn more about technology in Laguna Beach Unified by visiting the district’s award-winning website, specifically this page.