Academics and Assessment
South School provides a rich environment for students to learn and grow academically and socially. On a daily basis and by design, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment intertwine to support each student’s academic growth and social development.
The learning environment at South School strives to promote each student’s academic, personal and social growth and development. South School requires all students to learn the essential standards of a broad academic curriculum. The curriculum includes language arts, mathematics, science, technology, history/social studies, visual and performing arts, physical education and health. All curricula areas are aligned with the State standards that can be found at www.cde.ca.gov. All students have access to standards-based instructional materials. This year we are integrating the Common Core, which are the standards throughout the country. Throughout the year teachers review student progress, set personal education plan (PEP) goals with students and parents, examine test results and collaborate at grade level to provide the strongest program for each student.
In addition to the clear emphasis on a broad academic education, a strong focus is placed on students’ social-emotional growth. Teaching children to become global citizens, self-directed, enthusiastic and caring individuals is embedded throughout the academic program. Problem solving is emphasized through cooperative learning and the development of critical thinking skills. Cooperative learning is important in fostering teamwork, building community, encouraging peer-to-peer learning, promoting self-esteem and respect amongst students. An emphasis on inferring, analyzing, and synthesizing content is an integral part of developing critical thinking skills. Innovation is celebrated along with resilience, perseverance and grit!
A reading specialist, the general education teachers and special education teachers work with the librarian to assure the library collection supports the program for all students’ special needs, including gifted. The cognitive diversity at South is appreciated, addressed and celebrated. Classroom teachers and specialists collect information from formal test records, observations and student work to plan a program to build upon and extend the student’s current level of knowledge. When necessary, the classroom teacher shortens or extends assignments and provides open-ended assignments to meet and challenge individual students.
Equal Opportunity and Access
Every year begins with our Class Review process. This is a process wherein our Student Services Team (i.e. Principal, Counselor/Psychologist, Resource Teacher, Speech Therapist and Literacy Support Teacher) meet with each classroom teacher to review data and discuss the needs of the class. Supports (intervention and extension) are put in place as needed and monitored until the principal meets again with the grade levels after each report card period. If the new interventions are not adequate after 6-8 weeks a Child Study Team convenes.
A Child Study Team is comprised of classroom teacher, parents, principal, resource teachers, counselor, and the school psychologist/counselor. The special needs of the student are discussed, information from parents is shared and recommendations are made by the team. At times the recommendation will be made for the student to receive assistance from support personnel or to be tested for inclusion in the special education program. Resource specialist, occupational therapist, speech and language and hearing impaired programs are available to students with those needs. For the academically advanced child, discussions and program adjustments are recommended and implemented under the same procedures.
In addition to general education supports, a broad range of special education programming is available to students with exceptional needs. Students with special needs are identified and found eligible for services by a multi-disciplinary assessment team. Students qualifying for special educational services are typically served the majority of the day in their general education classroom. South School houses a learning center class for the District and students who participate in this program are integrated into the general classrooms and programs when possible.
English Language Learners
Students who are identified as English Language Learners receive services within their general education classes. Professional development continues to be available; however, all classroom teachers have been trained in skills to assist English language learners and/or received CLAD or equivalent credentials. Therefore, teachers are able to provide additional support and instructional opportunities for students who are developing fluency in English in their classrooms.
Gifted and Talented
In the past, Hillsborough City School District identified students for GATE beginning in 4th grade. Generally, a student’s STAR test results were used to determine a child’s achievement and GATE eligibility. A child who scored within the top 10% of his/her grade level across the district for 2 consecutive years was identified as a GATE student. With the change in the State testing and the HCSD Forward initiative to meet the needs of all students, the District is reviewing ways to identify Gifted students and then work on ways to meet their needs. Until that time, South works diligently to differentiate curriculum for students who present themselves as Gifted or in need of different curriculum and instruction.
When students have been referred for special education services, their Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are coordinated with regular instruction and are provided with minimum disruption to the students’ participation in the regular classroom. Resource teachers, special education aides, and classroom teachers coordinate the instructional program to help the children with special needs in their regular classroom.
Common Core is being fully implemented this year in Language Arts and Math.
Open Court is used grades K-5, which employs a wide array of instructional activities. Children have opportunities to read, interact and share their responses to literature with others. The program supports the development of strong, independent fluent readers who think and question critically and employ multiple comprehension strategies. These strategies include decoding, exploring language structure, building phonological awareness, employing meta-cognitive strategies and using text analysis. Classrooms are supplemented with a variety of other reading material and literature.
Students engage in authentic and meaningful writing tasks. Their writing is part of a multi-step process that progresses through pre-writing, drafting and revision before culminating in a variety of finished texts. Instructional attention is given to content proofreading, editing, spelling, handwriting and word processing. These skills are explicitly taught in lessons. Writing across the curriculum is emphasized. This year the staff is embarking on an inquiry involving students’ work in writing. Teachers meet at grade level and in vertical teams to discuss student writing samples throughout the curriculum. The goal is to develop a K-5 comprehensive writing program based on what we learn. Incorporating creative writing, journal writing, the elements of writing poetry, story and play writing, just to highlight few venues, will be reviewed throughout this inquiry process and will drive our understanding on how to motivate and inspire student writers.
In all grades, students are actively involved in developing thoughtful listening and speaking skills. As a learning community we are developing exercises that are inherent to teaching deep thinking and listening skills. Putting a high value on a thought process that includes active listening aligns well with the Common Core Standards.
There are also numerous speaking activities: reading aloud, presentations, sharing time, oral discussions, cooperative learning groups, and conflict resolution. Even within the leadership roles offered to students, public speaking is expected and practiced.
The library is an important resource for teachers and students alike. The teacher-librarian works collaboratively with teachers to provide instruction around literature selections and research strategies. Recognizing that free choice is a strong motivator in reading, the Library Media Center offers a broad range of print and visual materials at every level, to support our students in their natural curiosity and differentiated learning. The computer specialist assists with language arts lessons and word processing activities.
South School’s mathematic program contains well-defined sequential expectations that cover all the strands of the math framework throughout the grades. The mathematic curriculum has been aligned with the Common Core and focuses on developing understanding of fundamental concepts with an emphasis on problem solving. Open ended problems are framed in a way that pushes students to think more deeply. Solutions can take many different turns before landing on an explanation that is plausible. Students work on building and articulating problem solving strategies, representing mathematical ideas, making connections and recognizing and utilizing patterns. Concepts and skills from all strands are interwoven, reinforced and extended through lessons and assignments. Hands-on tools and manipulatives are widely used to build conceptual understanding. Teachers are implementing the Common Core Standards with an eye on previous State standards. Everyday Mathematics is the adopted material used by the teachers.
Teachers use the District-adopted FOSS/Delta science program in grade K-5. The program offers rich experiences in hands-on learning that are grounded in the standard-base instructional program.
Field trips across the grade levels further enrich our science program as well as guest speakers and programs that come to the school and present to grade levels during a particular unit of study.
The teacher-librarian assists teachers and students in selecting science materials and reference materials to enhance the area of study.
Health standards are taught in many of the science units and the District has offered many opportunities for teachers to articulate and develop curriculum to support the new health standards. Shifts to introduce the growth and development unit, which includes sex education, at the 5th grade level instead of the 6th happened last year. Curriculum development for this shift evolved through articulation between the 5th and 6th grade teachers, coordinated and facilitated by the Director of Educational Services.
Social/Emotional curriculum and instruction fall under the State health standards and have been incorporated at South during the physical education and regular class instruction. The District’s Counseling Departments have collaborated and created Emotional Intelligence curriculum that is in line with the State standards and supports educating our students about their social emotional needs. This year our Red Ribbon Week was designed by the counselor and the physical education teacher focusing on the health standards at each grade level.
History and Social Studies
History and Social Sciences are an integrated part of our school curriculum. Students attend assemblies, music classes and participate in art activities related to various Social Studies units. Instructional materials adopted during the 2005-2006 school year are used to implement and address the State standards. During holidays, children share their many customs with their classmates. Children broaden their knowledge and vision of the world through oral language, literature, pictures, maps, family history, globe activities and on-line research projects.
The librarian-teacher assist the students in using nonfiction and reference materials, bibliographies and historical fiction to supplement the study of history and social sciences through print and technology based resources.
World Culture and World Language is a District focus in the HCSD Forward plan. This year Spanish has been brought back to the 4th and 5th grades. Each class receives 1 hour of instruction a week. Classroom teachers work in concert with the Spanish teacher to provide rich cultural experiences for the students.
Visual and Performing Arts
Visual Art is taught by classroom teachers utilizing a variety of media and integrating it with all areas of study (i.e. Open Court and Everyday Math emphasize visual art). Guided drawing, sketching, sculpting and watercolor techniques are among the areas included in art instruction. Children’s artwork is displayed throughout the school. The Art in Action program continues this year with the support of the Parent Group. Field trips are another way to expose students to the visual arts.
Performing Art activities are included in classroom activities. A music specialist provides vocal music for students TK-5. A musical production is prepared and performed at TK through 5th Grade. Students see the performances during school hours and evening performances are given for the community.
Instrumental music is provided for the upper grades during school hours and after school. A performance is given to the student body at the end of the year. Throughout the year teachers can select field trip opportunities to support the performing arts. Assemblies are another way to expose students to this discipline.
Our Artist in Residence program began last year and is designed to enhance the core curriculum through exposure to a variety of performing arts experiences with professional artists. Thanks to our Parent Group, our Artist-in-Residence program has returned for a 2nd year to reinforce student learning of the core curriculum. Parents, teachers and students alike enjoy this learning experience.
The Physical Education emphasis is on participation, good sportsmanship and skill development. Activities include games and sports, rhythms, movement skills and equipment manipulation. All P.E. instruction is co-educational. Student results on the 2010 California Fitness Test are reviewed by school staff and District administrators.
California Health standards are incorporated into the Physical Education program. Articulation among science teachers, P.E. teacher and counselor help build a strong program for student health and fitness.
South School integrates the library program throughout the curriculum. We believe combining library and technology services into a library/media/research center is a critical component to student advancement because it supports inquiry, communication, and analysis. Our implementation of this integration is grounded in research, tied to curriculum and focused on positively impacting student learning. Informing our approach are best practices of the 21st century. South aims to improve student achievement through providing:
ØEquitable access to technology, through adequate student/computer ratios, security, maintenance and reliability.
ØOpportunities for students and staff to acquire 21st century skills
ØSupport to State curricular standards by enhancing instruction planning, delivery, practice, assessment, and communication.
ØTogether with the Library, the promotion of information literacy to develop critical users and creators of information.
With those goals in mind, the school has a computer lab adjacent to the library to complement instruction among lab time, library use and classroom time.
SMART boards and document cameras are in every classroom and help activate engaged learners. Teacher collaborations to create lessons using this technology are ongoing. Parity and access to the curriculum among grade levels is supported with this technology.
South School has an Enrichment Program that is housed in the Innovation Lab. Third - Fifth Graders go to the lab to continue learning about critical thinking. The curriculum is based on the Essential Outcomes. A part time Enrichment Teacher facilitates the instruction 3rd -5th grade and is available to the K-2 teachers as well.
All teachers embrace innovation in their classrooms. Staff meetings are utilized by sharing innovative ideas and best practices as a way to inspire new thinking and opportunities for students. Thursday site days are committed to curriculum design with the focus on 21st century learning. Therefore, enrichment is not a program unto itself; enrichment is integrated throughout the curriculum.
Standards, Assessment and Accountability
Students at South School participate in a broad-based curriculum with grade-level standards defined by the Common Core and State of California. Emphasis is placed on cognitive thinking skills and communication. Student assessment is key to guiding instruction and promoting learning. Student progress is evaluated using multiple measures: formal and informal assessments including group administered standardized tests, and curriculum based measures, individual diagnostic testing, report cards and classroom observations. South participated in the trial CAASP/SBAC test program last years, and will fully participate this year as mandated by the State of California. The District’s assessments (CARS, Math, DIBELS, TAAS) are scheduled in windows that coordinate with progress reports. Benchmarks are set and Personal Education Plans are crafted for each student based on all these assessments.
The Essential Outcomes are also assessed. With a rubric 1-4, students are evaluated on how well they achieve the stated outcomes. One of our goals was and continues to be to creating effective communicators and problem solvers.
Conferences are held twice a year and progress reports go out three times a year. Home-school communication is an essential element in the strong South program. Parents are kept informed of activities, policies, and individual progress through Tiger Tales, Principal Chats, Parent Education meetings, classroom letters, formal and informal conferences and an active Parent Group that meets monthly. Input from parents is important to the effectiveness of our program and is welcomed and solicited by staff and administration.