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Santa Clara Education Desk: Jan 8, 2014

STEM Academy to Open in SCUSD in June

Last month, the Santa Clara Unified Board of Education approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) to implement its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Leadership Academy program at Cabrillo Middle School.

Cabrillo Principal Stan Garber will provide day-to-day program management, with the assistance of Supervisor of Curriculum Tanya Fisher. SVEF will provide a program manager, lab manager, tutor, and partnership manager, and SCUSD faculty will conduct the actual teaching. All of the program funding is provided by SVEF, which is a non-profit funded by a variety of Silicon Valley companies and “angels.”

Part of the program’s goal is developing a blueprint for rolling out similar programs at other mainstream public schools, and creating a repository of best practices in STEM education.


The STEM Academy program aims to have students maintain a 3.7 GPA in an accelerated curriculum, and score among the top 10 percent on the SAT and ACT tests. The program adds 30 percent more instructional hours, with extra instruction from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Students also meet bi-weekly on Saturdays to work in teams on special projects, and daily for five-week summer sessions with industry and university groups for intensive hands-on experience with real-world problems. Busing will be provided in bringing the students to Cabrillo and outreach has been enhanced, SVEF VP Manny Barbara told the board.

The program aims to launch in June 2014.

While the program is unquestionably a feather in the district’s cap, Trustee Andy Ratermann noted that it was important not to lose sight of the needs of the entire population that the district serves. Making enriched programs like this available to students with the interest and talent was important, he said. “However, we do have to take care of the full spectrum of our student body.”

District to Field Test Common Core Assessment Tests

With the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum this year, SCUSD is going to be field testing the new assessments that match the standards – Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests – during April and May. All students in grades 3 through 8 will participate, and some students in grades 9 through 11. “The test will be used to measure the quality of the assessment,” according to a district press release. “Results will not be returned to students or parents.”

The field test will include several types of tests including multiple choice, constructed response – what we used to call “written answers” – and performance-based assessments using demonstrations, presentations and portfolios of work. Many of the assessments will be technology-based or -enhanced.

The new tests replace most of the STAR tests that students have taken in the past. The district will, however, continue to give the California high school graduation test (CAHSEE) test to 10th graders in March and 11th and 12th graders in May.

Parents to Get Common Core Hands-On Experience at Jan. 30 Workshop

To help parents get a handle on the new standards and testing methods, the SCUSD Assessment Department and the PTA will sponsor an interactive workshop for parents, “Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment System,” on Thursday, January 30th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Santa Clara High School. At the workshop, parents will have the opportunity for hands-on participation in activities that illustrate Common Core’s goals and methods.

For more information, visit, or contact SCUSD Director of Assessments Bill Conrad at (408) 423-2229 or

Common Core’s IT Needs Biggest Piece of Implementation Costs
The single largest cost – $1.5 million – of implementing the new Common Core State Standards will be information technology, as SCUSD IT Director Joseph Zeligs reported in a presentation last November. The chart above shows where the money will be spent.

Some of the terminology may be unfamiliar, so here are a few definitions to help.

  • Cloud services: Externally hosted applications and services accessed via the Internet. These include hosted telephone (Voice over IP, similar to an onsite PBX) and email services, as well as specialized education applications including School Loop, Edmodo (an educational social media portal), and the NWEA testing and assessment system.
  • 10 Gig: 10 gigabit (10 billion bits per second) wired communication lines.
  • Servers: Computers that “serve” information and applications to users; for example, when you search the Internet, Google’s server is collecting and presenting the information to you. A blade server is a way of configuring servers to use space more efficiently.
  • Chromebook (named for the Google Chrome browser): An Internet “appliance,” that is designed to run only an Internet browser and use only online services – everything is in the cloud, thus an Internet connection is always needed. (This used to be known as a “dumb terminal.”) Chromebooks are cheaper than tablets, and have keyboards, which makes them usable for writing and editing documents. (Between a Chromebook and a tablet lies the “netbook,” which is basically a stripped down laptop with a relatively low price and equivalent performance.)
  • SIS: Student Information System
  • Smart Board: An interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection for user input (similar to those used on TV news), and can capture writing and drawing with a digital pen.
  • Document cameras: Similar to overhead projectors for displaying presentations to an audience. They can also display anything placed under or in front of the camera, allowing a larger area to be displayed.
  • Mobile Device Management: Internal or outsourced service that manages the multiplicity of mobile devices that can access the network, including: security; district-owned device maintenance, upgrades, and replacement; and user profiles.
  • Learning Management Systems: Applications and services for e-learning delivery, administration, documentation, tracking, and reporting.

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