Tag Archives: common core

Bret Harte Jungle Book Kids Stirs Excitement And Engagement

The entire second-grade class at Bret Harte Elementary School presented the annual Bret Harte Jungle Book Kids play for two performances at the school on Thursday and Friday, April 7 and 8.

Students in Darlene Crain, Jennifer Brown, Catherine McMurry, Linda Gregorczyk and Jennifer Niwa’s classes worked together with school staff and parent volunteers to produce the show.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

All second-grade classes have performed the musical annually for the past five years.

Six years ago, a former second-grade teacher, Wendy Thompson, and a former Bret Harte parent, Lisa Dyson, wrote a grant funded by Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA) so Thompson’s class could put on the production of Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids.

After that inaugural year, two second-grade teachers would collaborate to present the musical, explained Gregorczyk. “This year, for the first time, we had all the second-grade classes in one musical performance.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“With Common Core curriculum and time constraints, the second-grade team got together and wrote a whole Common Core curriculum integrating The Jungle Book musical,” she went on to say. “The curriculum involved language arts, math, science, social studies and art.”

Parent Portia Schaeffer designed a new set for the production this year. Teachers and parents made the costumes and helped with face painting the day of the production.

“Each child is given a script which they take home so they can learn the musical and prepare for auditions,” Gregorczyk  added. “After some rehearsal, we hold auditions for the lead parts.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“What’s so unique about our production is that every child has a part in the production and a chance to perform on stage, not just the leads.”

“I was excited, yet nervous to perform,” commented Lena Luka, who played the character of Bagheera.

Georgia Dadekian, who played Baloo, said, “It was fun and exciting. It was the first time I ever got to play a lead role! I had fun.”

“It’s a lot of extra work for the teachers but we all feel it’s so rewarding for the students that it’s worth it,” said Gregorczyk. “There are students who struggle in school but get so excited about the production, that this is an area where they are able to excel.”

“It warms all our hearts to see such excitement in every child.”


Burbank Unified Common Core Scores Rank Higher Than State And County Averages

Burbank Unified School District received scores on Wednesday, September 9, for the new Smarter Balanced Assessments. Burbank Unified Common Core scores in subject proficiency ranked higher than Los Angeles County and State of California for all grades tested in English Language Arts, mathematics and science.

BUSD LOGO_Master File“Our number one focus is ensuring all of our students graduate with a degree that prepares them for college and/or their careers,” commented BUSD Superintendent Matt Hill. “While important, these results are just one measure that we look at to ensure we are preparing our students for their futures.”

The overall number of Burbank students who scored proficient or above in English Language Arts was 56%. In mathematics the overall score was 39% proficient or above.

These scores are a baseline and will be used to measure progress from year to year, according to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Assesment Sharon Cuseo. They cannot be compared to the scores on the previous testing system, as the tests are completely different.

The new California testing system is now known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). This test is aligned to the new California Standards, commonly referred to as the Common Core State Standards.


2015 CAASPP scores. (Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

The new assessment required the students to test on computers. In addition, the computer-based assessment was adaptive, which means that the test changed for students based on how they answered questions; the more questions they answered correctly, the more difficult the questions became.

Science, like English Language Arts and mathematics, has new standards. The new science assessment is in development, but will not be ready for administration until the 2017-2018 school-year.

It is important to note that the assessment data is baseline data only and is not being used for state or federal accountability purposes, District officials stressed. The CAASPP assessment is only a snapshot of student performance on a single test. The district uses the results to analyze global areas of success and opportunities for improvement, but primarily relies on data from the classroom to support teaching and learning.

Burbank Unified District Testing Discussed

The Burbank Unified School District continues to prepare for Smarter Balance testing of the new Common Core national standards in the spring of 2015. While some district-wide tests have been dropped, other assessments will continue to be given to students, including writing prompts in elementary and secondary schools and baseline tests to provide data for the LCAP plan.

BUSD Logo“We do expect lower scores across the board to start but we do expect to show growth pretty quickly,” BUSD Director of Instruction and Accountability Sharon Cuseo told Board of Education members.

“Because it’s going to be widespread across the state, it’s not a reflection of our teachers or students at all,” she said. “It’s just a reflection on the testing instrument itself. I think that’s really important for parents to hear.”

Cuseo also noted that Smarter Balance testing will occur in March, April and part of May, to accommodate the much longer time needed for students to complete the test. Students in grades three through five will spend four hours on the English Language Arts section and three hours on the Math section.

Students in grades six through eight will need four hours for English Language Arts and three-and-a-half for Math. Eleventh graders need four-and-a-half hours for ELA and four for Math.

“That’s a lot of testing,” Cuseo said. “You shouldn’t really test more than two to three hours per day.”

All students in the same grade level across the district will take the adaptive Common Core Smarter Balance test in the same window of time. The recently purchased carts of Chromebooks will help the district achieve these goals, along with the support of the BUSD technology staff.

Limited district assessments in science, social science and health will remain similar to years previously, for now.

Teachers have had to change the pacing of their instruction schedules and test content, since they require more time to get through the material to align with Common Core standards.

“As you know with Common Core, everything kind of got turned upside down and we have to redo everything we are doing in instruction, from assessments to curriculum to textbooks,” Cuseo explained.


School Board Approves Purchase Of Chromebooks

The Burbank Unified Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of 360 HP Chromebooks for Smarter Balance testing and instructional use on Thursday, October 3. The school board also approved the purchase of 10 Aver mobile carts to secure, charge and transport the Chromebooks.

BUSD LogoFunds for the Chromebooks and mobile carts will come from Common Core money set aside for technology, professional development and materials, said Sharon Cuseo, Director of Instruction and Accountability for the district.

“This past spring, we had our Smarter Balance field testing and we were able to pull that off pretty smoothly with help from our technology team and our school sites,” commented Cuseo. “The only thing we needed to do to make that happen in terms of purchasing computers was we bought three laptop carts to help the high schools deal with the volume of testing.”

“However, this spring we have the real test and so we’re going to need more support because the test is going to be full length, which is twice as long as the test was in the field testing,” she went on to say. “For example, at the high school, the students will be testing for 8 1/2 hours each students, and so, that is a lot of testing.”

Students in Debbie McHorney's class use four-year-old laptops in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Students in Debbie McHorney’s class use four-year-old laptops in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Since the district does not have computer labs, or even the space for computer labs, at every school site, BUSD officials see mobile computer carts as the answer for administering the Smarter Balance test. When the Chromebook carts are not in use for testing, they can be used for instructional purposes in the classroom.

Chromebooks were selected for the purchase, Cuseo said, because “we didn’t want to invest in something that was going to be very expensive and consume all of our Common Core money.”

BUSD wanted to purchase a product useful not only for testing but also for instruction.

To this end, the BUSD technology team determined the 14″ HP Chromebook as a best option. It has 4 gigabytes RAM, a 14″ monitor, a nine-hour battery life and comes with a three-year warranty, explained Charles Poovakan, Director of Information Technology and Educational Support.

Each Chromebook is priced at $312 for the district and can be used for online access and basic word processing. Many apps and programs are available via the internet.

The school board approved $149,248.80 for the Chromebook purchase, which includes $10,108.80 in state tax. The Aver carts cost $14,925.58.

“This would be a computer lab on wheels,” commented Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds.

The Chromebook carts will only be moved around for testing, added Cuseo. Otherwise, they will stay at specific schools. The three carts purchased earlier this year for the Smarter Balance field testing are already deployed, one each at Burbank and John Burroughs High Schools and one at a district middle school.

The additional ten Chromebook carts will be divided between the high schools, middle schools and larger elementary schools for instructional use.

The school district has been testing iPads at Luther and trying out various technology items at Burroughs and other district schools in its ongoing quest to integrate technology in the classroom.

Miller And Stevenson Win Distinguished Schools And Arts Education Honors

Burbank Unified’s Joaquin Miller and Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary Schools both were recognized by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson as California Distinguished Schools for 2014.

BUSD LogoIn an announcement made Wednesday, April 30, Miller and Stevenson were chosen for the honor along with 422 other California public elementary schools. Additionally, both Miller and Stevenson received the Exemplary Arts Education Program honor, given to only 13 of this year’s group of elementary Distinguished Schools.

“We are just really excited and happy to be recognized,” commented Stevenson Principal Debbie Ginnetti. “It’s nice to have our efforts validated for something we do every day.”

“We feel arts education is important for a child’s overall education,” Ginnetti added, as she indicated the school’s Booster group provides a great deal of supplemental arts programs.

The complete Stevenson lunch shelter mural created by Nickterns. (Photo Courtesy of Anne Askerneese)

The complete Stevenson lunch shelter mural created by Nickterns. (Photo Courtesy of Anne Askerneese)

Stevenson holds a Fine Arts Friday weekly during which all the students can work on various visual arts projects.

The Booster club also puts on lunchtime concerts on the playground. A string quartet from the Pasadena Symphony, a saxophonist and two parent musicians have all performed music for the youngsters.

Victorian carolers visited classrooms during the holidays and parents have recited poetry by the school’s namesake, Robert Louis Stevenson, for the children.

“We are trying to expose the students to different arts,” Ginnetti said. “We do a lot to integrate arts into the curriculum and classroom.”

“I was so proud of our students, staff and parents’ hard work,” commented Miller Principal Judy Hession on the Distinguished Schools honor. “It’s really important to work together as a team.”

Doug Copeland, Principal Judy Hession, Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy and Chris Copeland smile at the Copeland Courtyard dedication ceremony, surrounded by Miller Elementary schoolchildren. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Doug Copeland, Principal Judy Hession, Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy and Chris Copeland smile at the Copeland Courtyard dedication ceremony, surrounded by Miller Elementary schoolchildren. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Miller Elementary’s teachers have put in a lot of time learning about ways to integrate theater arts in to their daily classes and for special projects.

Over the summer, several teachers attend special training programs at the Getty, to increase their knowledge for classroom application.

The school has seen seven complete play productions throughout the school year and Hession pointed to the large number of parents who donate time and equipment to support the school’s growing theater arts program.

The Getty and the Skirball Center have supported the school frequently with grants for arts programs, Hession said.

Currently, the 24th Street Theatre has funded an eight-week program for the school, sending a teacher weekly to work with staff and students on integrating theater across the curriculum, in a nod to the emerging Common Core standards.

Teachers also have planned a poetry night in May, added Hession, at which students will recite their original poems at the school event.

“I’m so happy these two particular schools are being honored by the state,” commented Peggy Flynn, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the district. “They show there’s no one way to do it right.”

Stevenson has approximately 400 enrolled students and is not a Title 1 school. On the other hand, Miller is one of the largest elementary schools in the district with about 700 children enrolled and 40% of those students are classified as English Language Learners. Miller is also a Title 1 school and qualifies for additional funds from the state because 40% or more of its student population comes from low-income families.

“I think any one of our elementary schools, were they eligible to apply for the Distinguished Schools award, would have received the Arts Education honor as well,” added Flynn. “Each elementary in the district does so much to incorporate the arts into the school day.”

Stevenson and Miller, along with all of BUSD’s schools, benefit from the district’s ongoing Arts For All plan and individualized partnerships with organizations and businesses in the community. Both principals acknowledged a combination of district, community, teacher and parental support helps the schools come up with creative ways to integrate the arts throughout the school for all of its students.

The California Department of Education’s Distinguished Schools program exists to recognize schools making strong advancements to narrow the disparity in achievements between school population subgroups when analyzed by ethnicity, income and access. Schools apply for the program by completing an exhaustive application including on-campus visitation from state officials.